Jerry Rice: 'This is a very special day'

In the middle of the 49ers' emotional 20-14 victory over Seattle on Sunday, there was an emotional retirement ceremony at halftime for legendary receiver Jerry Rice, who stepped to the podium before a stadium full of adoring fans and delivered a speech of gratitude. Rice said he had prepared a speech for the moment, but he scrapped it and spoke from the heart instead. Here's Rice's speech in full.

After Rice was introducted at midfield, he stepped to the microphone before a roaring sellout crowd of 68,367.

His voice boomed over the loudspeakers for the next several minutes:

"Thank you, thank you. Thank you, I love you guys. Thank you. You know what, I had prepared a speech, but I'm going to talk to you guys from my heart.

"Back in 1985, this coach, he was in New Orleans, to play the New Orleans Saints. He had just checked into his hotel room, and he was flipping the channels. I'm talking about Bill Walsh. Bill Walsh came across me, and he took a chance, and he brought me here to San Francisco. I love this guy with all of my heart, because when I first got here, you remember, I was dropping balls all over the place. The media, they were all over me. Everybody thought I was going to be a bust. But Bill Walsh, he saw something that was real special. I was able to endure that, and I fought through it.

"I want to talk to you guys about my teammates. It was always about team here in San Francisco. All of the records that I accomplished on the football field, they were due to my teammates. Those guys standing right down there, and those guys up here.

"I also have to thank John and Denise York, for giving me the opportunity to come back and retire the right way.

"I want to say thank you also to George Seifert. George, he was a little different from Bill Walsh, but George, he was a winner. He would never walk across the 49er logo, he always had to have his certain sweater, but he was a winner, and we were able to go on and win two more Super Bowls.

"And why don't we talk about the best owner in San Francisco, Eddie DeBartolo. You guys talk about that twelfth man, Eddie DeBartolo, he was something special here. We were able to go on and win five Super Bowls. I'm glad to have Eddie here today.

"And, I'm glad to have my family here. My family meant everything to me. My wife, she's been so supportive. My two daughters, my son, they've been really special to me. They have motivated me throughout the years. If I didn't play well, my wife still had to put up with me, no matter what. My dad, he's deceased now, but I'm sure my dad is looking down on this day. This is a very special day for me. My mom is in the stands, she's here. I want her to know that I love her to death.

"I have one more thing to say. At quarterback, I've had the opportunity to play with two Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Steve Young. Without these two, none of the records would have happened, and the Super Bowls. I want to say thank you to those guys.

"I have one more request here. I would like for Steve Young to toss me one more football."

And then, as Rice finished his speech, that's exactly what happened. Both Rice and Young stepped down from the podium, and Rice glided down the middle of the field wearing his tan suit.

Young fired a perfect spiral 20 yards in the air and, of course, Rice reeled it in near the 20-yard line and - looking graceful even it dress shoes - glided like a gazelle into the end zone at Monster Park one final time for posterity.

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