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5 Best Moments of Dwight Clark's Football Life


Dwight Clark died Monday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 61. The legendary San Francisco receiver will always be remembered for "The Catch," the leaping touchdown catch to beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 in the 1982 NFC Championship Game and put the 49ers in their first Super Bowl. He deserves his place in history for that play, but there were many great moments in Clark's football career. Here are the five best.

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5. ACC Champs

Going into the 1978 season, Clemson head coach Charlie Pell called Clark "the most underrated receiver in the Atlantic Coast Conference." Unfortunately, Clark wasn't able to really change that distinction because: 1) he separated his shoulder in the first game of the season, and 2) he was still a supporting player in the battering ram rushing attacks of the 1970s.  That being said, he played a vital role on a team that went 11-1 --the best record in Clemson history at the time -- and won the ACC title. His best performance came against 11th-ranked Maryland, when he caught a pass and raced 60 yards into the end zone to tie the game in what would be a 28-24 win that clinched the conference championship.

4. Super Bowl XIX

At 15-1, the 1984 49ers are arguably the best team the franchise ever assembled and their 38-16 whipping of a phenomenally good Miami Dolphins team in Super Bowl XIX only enforces that belief. In that game, Clark tied Roger Craig for the team lead with 77 receiving yards. One of those catches was a 16-yard reception that put San Francisco in the red zone in the second quarter. The 49ers scored a few plays later to take a 14-10 lead that they never relinquished.

3. Receptions Leader

San Francisco's strike-shortened 1982 season was a dumpster fire, as the 49ers went 3-6. The only bright spot was Clark, who led the league in receptions with 60, and made the Pro Bowl. Legendary Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman, aka Dr. Z, said that Clark was his player of the year.

2. Number Retired

Clark announced the end of his playing career after the 1987 season and the 49ers retired his number (No. 87) the following season. He was the first 49er to primarily play wide receiver who was bestowed that honor; preceding even arguably the greatest to ever play the position, Jerry Rice. That is a testament to what Clark meant to the franchise.

1. The Catch

All of the hyperbole surrounding this play is 100 percent fair. Was it planned? Was Joe Montana throwing the ball away? Who cares? Clark made an amazing catch that kick-started a dynasty and immortalized him in an NFL history.

-- Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

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