Seven months ago, Charlotte native Dwight Clark, who was apart of one of the most famous plays in NFL history, announced he has ALS, a terminal disease.
On Sunday, the Garinger High graduate will be honored by the San Francisco 49ers, which will host the Dallas Cowboys. In 1981, Clark made history by leaping to catch a game-winning pass from Joe Montana in the end zone against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. The play is now remembered simply as “The Catch,” and a life-size statue of Clark in the 49ers’ museum honors the player -- and the play.
On Sunday, “Dwight Clark Day” will include a special halftime ceremony, when Montana will speak and Clark’s career will be honored. He played for the 49ers from 1979-87 and he was a front-office executive from 1989-98. Currently, Clark is a 49ers Hall of Fame consultant.
Clark told the world he had ALS, perhaps better known as Lou Gehrig disease, on a post via Twitter last March. He included a link to a blog he wrote, where he said it started with weakness in his left hand. Clark said he wasn’t sure if football was at fault, but he suspected it was.
ALS is a progressive disease that robs people of their ability to move but not their ability to think. It has no cure. Some people afflicted with ALS can lose their ability to eat and breathe. It usually strikes between ages 40 and 70, and according to the ALS Association, about 20,000 Americans will have the disease at any given time.
On Sunday, the 49ers will have a 50/50 raffle to benefit its Golden Heart Fund, which serves current and future 49ers alumni in need of financial, medical, psychological or emotional support. Also, 25 percent of proceeds from Dwight Clark apparel for sale Sunday at the stadium will also go to the Fund.
Fans will receive a Clark-themed T-shirt upon entry to the stadium, and Clark’s former teammates and friends will be featured on the stadium video boards throughout the game with memories and thoughts.
▪ Clark, who was raised in Kinston, moved with his family to Charlotte. He graduated from Garinger High in 1975 and played college football at Clemson. He wound up in the NFL after a pro scout, sent to Clemson to evaluate Tigers quarterback Steve Fuller, took notice of Clark, a quick 6-foot-4 receiver who was catching passes that day. Before Jerry Rice, Clark became the most famous receiver in the Bay Area, catching 506 passes for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns.