Owens' star quality adds to Dallas rivalry

Is Terrell Owens still public enemy No. 1 in Dallas? "That's an interesting question," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. "Because we certainly have used that a little bit from the standpoint of focus and the fact that this is our home field and we defend our home field." It's also a question of interest this week with the 49ers going to Dallas to play the Cowboys for the third consecutive season at Texas Stadium. Everybody still remembers well what Owens did the first time San Francisco was there.

That was dance all over the Cowboys' midfield star logo after scoring touchdowns early in the game and late in the game. Actually, Owens ran to midfield to stand on the star and look upward through the hole in the roof at Texas Stadium, creating much disdain and the wrath of Dallas the first time, then nearly inciting an all-out brawl the second time.

Owens wasn't talking about that two-year-old incident this week - he rarely talks to the local media anymore - but it certainly still is fresh in the minds of the Cowboys.

"I think our guys, from the standpoint of standing on our star, I think that that in a small way means something," Campo said. "We certainly don't want to use negativism as a motivator, but at the same time, it's a competitive situation and people motivate themselves in a number of different ways.

"But I'm one who believes that when you line up on Sunday, anything can happen, especially in the league today. You still have to show up ready to play football and all that emotional stuff lasts for about 10 hits. Then, it comes down to who is prepared and who is ready to play on that particular day."

The Cowboys were ready last year when Owens and the Niners returned to Texas Stadium on Dec. 30 with an 11-3 record and needing a victory over the 4-10 Cowboys to secure a wild-card playoff game at home.

The Cowboys kept Owens out of the end zone - and off the midfield star - and emerged with a 27-21 victory that forced San Francisco to go on the road two weeks later, where the Niners lost in the first round at Green Bay.

Combine the Owens incident that won't die with a Cowboys-49ers rivalry that already is legendary, and there shouldn't be any lack of intensity on the Texas Stadium turf when these teams get together Sunday.

"I think everybody's aware of the past and will just continue to build on that enthusiasm, that excitement that surrounds this game," Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia said.

Said Niners coach Steve Mariucci: "It's going to be a slugfest. It's going to be a doozy. They're improving like crazy. It's a big game for them, it's a big game for us. Because we're right in the thick of it all. We expect to have one of those real good 49er-Cowboy football games."



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