SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Dwight Clark will make a point to walk to the spot of his famous game-winning touchdown known only as “The Catch” for probably the final time.
He will spend a moment reflecting on that special patch of grass in the far right corner of the north end zone at Candlestick Park, a thrilling memory he is reminded of daily even now, nearly 32 years later.
“This will be the last time I’ll be able to stand on that spot as far as I know,” Clark said.
Joe Montana didn’t expect to make it Monday, when The Stick says its last public goodbye after a run of Super Bowl success; baseball greats like Willie Mays and home run king Barry Bonds; the 1989 earthquake that interrupted the Bay Bridge World Series; and even The Beatles’ farewell concert.
“It’s going to be weird,” Terrell Owens said before a game last month. “I’m glad I got an opportunity to be here.”
The current 49ers (10-4) are determined to leave their mark on Candlestick’s legacy by beating Atlanta (4-10) in the dilapidated stadium’s last hurrah Monday might in a rematch of the NFC championship game won by San Francisco.
“We feel that it’s something special,” safety Donte Whitner said.
Those who spent their most memorable years in the iconic venue — with that recognizable boomerang-shaped concrete shell — are sad to see it go. Even if the unpredictable swirling winds off the bay and bitter cold hardly made it a cozy home field.
Jerry Rice walked through the stadium several weeks back and soaked in the cheers from every direction, signed autographs and posed for photos.
“It’s very difficult for me to come to games. Hearing those cheers again, I want to get back on that field,” Rice said. “This is where everything started. It’s sort of sad to see it coming to an end because I know next year they’ll be in Santa Clara.”
The Niners will move into $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium at team headquarters, while Candlestick waits out its implosion day, likely in late 2014.
Everybody realizes it’s time.
“I’ll forever be grateful to have played on that field and shared that field with guys who are in the Hall of Fame and guys who have won championships for this organization,” linebacker Patrick Willis said.
There’s no debate that a dynasty was born with “The Catch.” Candlestick’s top-10 football moments have been counted down during each home game this season, with “The Catch” at No. 1 for the regular-season home finale.
That 6-yard touchdown reception with 51 seconds left sent San Francisco to a 28-27 win and its first Super Bowl.