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49ers' Young Says Goodbye To Football


Steve Young retired from football Monday, saying his goodbye in the 49ers' locker room and leaving the game after repeated concussions made it too dangerous to play.

"The fire still burns but not enough," he said.

The 38-year-old quarterback, who played with grit and heart during a 15-year career, requested that his retirement be announced in the same room where he spent his days preparing his battered body for one big game after another.

"I thought, where else?" he said. "This is the most intimate place for a football player. This is where football happens away from the crowd. This is where I show up for work."

Young, who last week told the team he was retiring, succeeded Joe Montana at quarterback. He won two MVP Awards and led San Francisco to its fifth Super Bowl title following the 1994 season.

"I loved playing for the San Francisco 49ers," he said. "We accomplished a lot here in the San Francisco Bay area."

The guest list at the retirement announcement included former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who turned control of the team over to his sister to help resolve a family feud, and Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy, who left San Francisco after a falling out with DeBartolo.

Members of Young's family along with Denver coach Mike Shanahan, a former 49ers offensive coordinator who influenced Young's development, attended the news conference.

The decision to end his career followed months of agonized debate with himself and the organization over his future because of his history of concussions.

The last blow came Sept. 27 in a game at Arizona, a frightening hit that left Young out cold for some 30 seconds with his eighth known concussion and fourth in three years. He endured postconcussion symptoms of nausea, dizziness, headaches and lethargy for weeks and missed the rest of the season.

Young's primary neurologist is believed to have told Young last year that he should quit football because he would put himself at risk for more damaging head blows by resuming his career. However, Young, still yearning to play, sought advice from other doctors and passed a series of neurological tests showing he was clinically "normal."

The salary-cap stressed 49ers, fearful of the potential for re-injury and wary of the payroll implications if they brought Young back, urged retirement. Young briefly considered the notion of going to Denver for one last shot at a Super Bowl run but ultimately determined it was time to call it a career and to finish as a 49er.

Changes in his personal life also influenced his decision. He got married March 14 to Barbara Graham and the couple is expecting a baby in late December.

"In many ways what lieahead for me is more important than what I leave behind," he said.

Young, who overcame the shadow of Montana to create his own legacy, leaves as the NFL's highest-rated passer and a six-time winner of the league's passing efficiency title.

With Jerry Rice, he formed the most prolific touchdown-pass tandem in NFL history as they combined for 85 scores. Rice looked on Monday as Young made his announcement.

Young was part of one of the most riveting finishes ever in a playoff game when he hooked up with Terrell Owens on a last-second 25-yard touchdown pass to beat Green Bay on Jan. 3, 1999.

Equally dangerous as a runner, the seven-time Pro Bowler rushed for an NFL-record 43 touchdowns, including a remarkable 49-yard scramble in 1988 against Minnesota that endures as one of the great broken-field runs.

He threw for a record six touchdowns in San Francisco's 49-26 Super Bowl win over San Diego in January 1995, earning an MVP award for his performance in the championship game.

"I really believe he's one of the top five players ever to play the game at his position," said Shanahan, who was San Francisco's offensive coordinator during the 49ers' last Super Bowl season. "He could do it all. He had a great sense of timing. He could make all the throws. He was a great competitor."

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