Deion Provides Fists and Fireworks : NFC: He steals the show in what he calls ‘my house,’ helping 49ers rout the Falcons, 42-3.
To Deion Sanders, any time in Atlanta is Prime Time.
Even on a Sunday afternoon.
“This is my house. I built this house,” Sanders said after he made the key play in the 49ers’ 42-3 rout of Atlanta--a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown in his first appearance against the Falcons in the city where he played football for five years and baseball for four.
For good measure, he got into a fistfight with former teammate Andre Rison, although the two hugged near midfield after the game.
Sanders even overshadowed a near-perfect Steve Young, who had four touchdown passes, completed his first 14 passes and went 15 of 16 for 143 yards against an Atlanta secondary that certainly could have used Sanders. The game was so lopsided that Young gave way to Elvis Grbac after throwing his fourth touchdown pass with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
But it was Sanders’ day, even though he ended up playing only a half--leaving the game because of a groin injury he suffered by high-stepping on his interception return, one of six turnovers by the Falcons. Young was the first to acknowledge it.
“He creates his own drama,” Young said of his new teammate’s ability to perform in the spotlight.
“You see him get into a fight and you think, ‘What’s he doing? What’s he doing?’ Then he returns an interception 93 yards for a touchdown. It’s a tribute to his playing ability.”
Four of the turnovers led directly to San Francisco touchdowns, two others stopped Atlanta threats and Sanders’ did both. The result: San Francisco (5-2) took over first in the NFC West and Atlanta (4-3) lost a chance to take over the division lead alone for the first time since the seventh game of the 1987 season.
The 49ers jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first 15:06, on touchdown passes by Young for 10 yards to Ricky Watters and one yard to Jerry Rice with Tim McDonald’s 49-yard touchdown return of a Craig Heyward fumble in between.
Then Sanders entered the picture.
After shutting down Rison for the first quarter, he locked up with his former teammate on a short route 3:22 into the second.
As the play ended, Sanders swung with his left, then landed two more lefts and a combination. Rison landed two more rights and a combination before officials stopped the bout and marched off 15 yards against Sanders.
“I tried to jam him a few plays earlier and he got his head down and I caught him under the chin,” Sanders said of Rison, to whom he apologized at midfield. “He retaliated. We were both at fault and I told him that.”
Rison’s version was essentially the same. “I guess one thing led to another,” he said. “He came out to midfield at end and we talked. He said we should have been better people than that.”
Sanders was penalized, and that led to a 34-yard Norm Johnson field goal that made the score 21-3.
Then the Falcons looked like they were ready to make it competitive when Sanders scored on his 93-yard interception return, finishing it off with his patented high-step routine.
“Had we scored on that drive, it might have gotten us back in the game,” Rison said. “We gave them too many gifts today.”
The second half was easy for the 49ers.
Atlanta turned the ball over on two of its first three second-half plays.
First, Merton Hanks intercepted George, returning the ball 22 yards to the 8 and setting up a seven-yard touchdown pass from Young to tight end Brent Jones. Then, Dana Stubblefield pried the ball loose with a sack and Rickey Jackson recovered at the 42, leading to a four-yard Young to Watters touchdown pass play.
George left after going a deceptive 19 of 27 for 177 yards; Young followed and so did most of the 67,298 at the Georgia Dome.
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