49ers legend Dwight Clark dies at age 61 after battle with ALS

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor
Shutdown Corner

San Francisco 49ers receiving legend Dwight Clark has died after battling ALS, according to a tweet posted by his wife Kelly on Monday.

“I’m heartbroken to tell you that today I lost my best friend and husband,” Kelly Clark wrote, posting to Dwight’s verified Twitter account. “He passed peacefully surrounded by many of the people he loved most. I am thankful for all of Dwight’s friends, teammates and 49ers fans who have sent their love during his battle with ALS. Kelly Clark.”

Dwight Clark was 61 years old.

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Clark is known by football fans of all ages for being on the receiving end of “The Catch,” the leaping touchdown grab from Joe Montana with under a minute left in the game to win the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The 49ers would win the Super Bowl two weeks later, against the Bengals.

Clark went public with health battle in 2017

Clark discovered he was afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or the disease known as ALS, in 2015; he announced his battle publicly in March 2017.

Last October, before ALS robbed Clark of the ability to walk, the 49ers held Dwight Clark Day at Levi’s Stadium, one last time for the fans who adored him to shower him with cheers.

Former San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, center (in dark jacket), died on Monday after a three-year battle with ALS. He was 61 years old. (AP)
Former San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, center (in dark jacket), died on Monday after a three-year battle with ALS. He was 61 years old. (AP)

According to Sports Illustrated, Dwight and Kelly Clark also began hosting old teammates and friends at weekly lunches in their California home around the same time, enjoying laughs and reliving memories.

But in March, the couple decided to move to Montana, near the home of former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo, and in April, a group of 27 former players, coaches and team staff traveled to see Clark in Montana for one last hurrah.

As word spread of Clark’s death, many began to weigh in.

Love you bro Dwight Clark!! RIP,” Jerry Rice tweeted.

Really saddened by the loss of Dwight Clark,” tweeted current Niners tackle Joe Staley. “He was so much more than a football player. He was so kind and happy. Such a pure human spirit. Our hearts are with his family.”

The 49ers released a statement on the team website:

“The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark … Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease.”

The team also changed its avatars on both Twitter and Instagram to a black circle with the number 87, Clark’s number, and a golden outline of his iconic touchdown catch.

Tenth-round pick to two-time Pro Bowler

A North Carolina native who attended Clemson, Clark was drafted by San Francisco in the 10th round of the 1979 draft.

He had his career-best season in 1981, with 85 catches for 1,105 yards and four touchdowns; in the NFC Championship against the Cowboys that year, he had eight catches for 120 yards and two scores, including the iconic game-winning touchdown.

That was also the first of his two Pro Bowl seasons. In the strike-shortened 1982, Clark led the NFL with 60 catches, for 913 yards and five touchdowns.

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