Riding off into the Sunset Rice Will Likely Be Salary Cap Casualty and Play His Final Home Game with 49ers Sunday

By McDill, Kent | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Riding off into the Sunset Rice Will Likely Be Salary Cap Casualty and Play His Final Home Game with 49ers Sunday


McDill, Kent, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Kent McDill Daily Herald Sports Writer

No one in attendance at the United Center on June 12, 1998, knew for sure they were watching Michael Jordan play his last home game with the Bulls.

On Sunday, at 3Com Park in San Francisco, 49ers fans will have a good feeling that they are seeing the last of Jerry Rice as a member of the home team.

A 16-year career with the San Francisco 49ers is expected to come to a close for Rice at the end of this season. The 38-year-old wide receiver, who still has plenty of run left in his legs, will probably be a victim of salary cap problems and be released at season's end.

The 49ers host the Bears on Sunday in their last home game of the season before playing at Denver on Dec. 23. At that point, Rice anticipates taking his record-setting skills elsewhere.

"I would love to come back," Rice said. "This is where I started. I would love to finish here. But if it doesn't work out, no hard feelings. I call it the nature of the beast."

"The beast" in this case is the salary cap, the necessary evil in today's professional sports field. The 49ers, once considered the masters of salary cap manipulation, are $12 million over for next season and need to make some cuts.

Rice has a reported salary of $4.2 million next season, and if the 49ers cut Rice after June 1, they would save nearly $2 million.

Forty-niner fans won't find out for sure about Rice's status for six months, but Rice is almost certain to find work elsewhere.

"I'm driving in to work and I'm hearing rumors (on radio talk shows) about him becoming a Raider next year," said 49ers coach Steve Mariucci. "I almost ran into a wall."

Rice teased reporters Monday by suggesting he would jump on the back of a white horse at the end of the game Sunday and ride off into the sunset. But the 49ers are planning to make the day special for Rice from the beginning, when Rice's 13-year-old daughter Jaqui will sing the national anthem.

Rice's place in history is set in the same sort of stone as Jordan's. He has 187 career touchdowns, 33 more than Dallas' Emmitt Smith, who is in second, and 62 more than Walter Payton, who is fifth on the all-time list. …

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