Dwight Clark, the San Francisco 49ers great most widely known for making “The Catch” from Joe Montana to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, died Monday. He was 61.

Clark’s wife, Kelly Clark, revealed the news about her husband, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

A two-time all-pro selection, Clark also helped lead the 49ers to Super Bowl titles. In one of the most iconic plays in NFL history, his stretching catch in the back of the end zone gave San Francisco a 28-27 win over the Cowboys for a berth in Super Bowl XVI. Their 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals marked the first of five Super Bowl titles for the franchise from 1981-94.

Clark’s No. 87 jersey was retired by the 49ers in 1988. With 6,750 career receiving yards, he still trails only Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in franchise history. 

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He also served as the 49ers’ general manager in 1998 and subsequently held the same title for the Cleveland Browns for three seasons.

When Clark first revealed his diagnosis last March, he noted that he had concerns about whether his playing career had led to the illness.

“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” Clark wrote. “I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.”

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.


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