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Montana Goes Home to Say Goodby : Pro football: About 25,000 attend his retirement ceremony in San Francisco and attempt unsuccessfully to get him to reconsider.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The chant arose from the concrete floor of crowded Justin Herman Plaza and resounded from nearby rooftops, fire escapes and balconies.

Every inch of this downtown plot being thick with bodies and memories, the chant surged like a strong wind, finally forcing the man at the podium to stop and scratch his head.

Joe Montana told San Francisco he was retiring Tuesday.

The city responded with a blitz that fooled even him:

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“No. No. No. No. No.”

About 25,000 fans chanted not just for a city, but for an entire professional football league, which today is without one of its greatest quarterbacks.

Montana, 38, after 16 years and four Super Bowl championships, said goodby Tuesday amid a celebration that was as outlandish as his career.

And some people thought they would never see Joe Cool bewildered.

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“It’s been like living in a dream,” he said. “But my dream, like most dreams . . . whether you want to or not, you end up waking up.”

But Montana never thought he would open his eyes to discover an hourlong ceremony that featured rock music, an inflatable football, a speech by John Madden and nothing from Steve Young.

“As most people know, I am one to take the quiet route,” Montana said. “To see this kind of response . . . I’m literally shocked.”

Surrounding streets were closed as masses of red-and-gold bedecked fans mixed with everyone from silk-suited executives to the homeless. A nearby high-rise office building appeared to shut down as hundreds of workers pressed their faces against windows on every floor.

After early morning clouds cleared, fans were caught in a downpour of hyperbole.

Bill Walsh, his former coach, credited Montana with saving the entire city from ruins. “In 1981, this was a city in fragments, a city distressed . . . and then came Joe Montana,” he said.

Carmen Policy, the 49er president, compared him to a noble knight, saying: “The 49ers were Camelot . . . and you know who Sir Lancelot was.”

Madden, who has virtually no connection to Montana, yet occupied a space on the podium next to 49er officials, announced: “This guy is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.”

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The only thing missing was a big smooch from Young, the current 49er quarterback whose presence was responsible for Montana being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs two years ago.

Young was told last week that he was invited. After much personal debate, he agreed to leave a made-for-TV quarterback contest in Florida and fly here. He even purchased the plane tickets.

But Monday, Montana’s representatives said Young’s invitation, which had been relayed to him through the Brigham Young University football office, did not come from them. He had been the victim of a hoax, they said. Furthermore, if he still wanted to keep that plane ticket and attend, he would not be part of the ceremony.

Young stayed in Florida, where teammates phoned him to assure him that no member of the 49ers would have played such a trick.

Young attempted to send a telegram to Montana through 49er officials. But depending on which story you believed, it was either never received or never read.

So one of pro football’s juiciest feuds continues. But for one day, anyway, Montana recaptured the glory that once was his, in a town he once owned.

“Joe Is God” read one sign waved by a fan. Another fan in the front of the surging crowd simply waved one finger and wept.

Contrary to previous reports, Montana did not make up his mind to retire until last month, according to his father, Joe Montana Sr. That is when he broke the news to his family over dinner.

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Also contrary to reports, Montana said his wife, Jennifer, did not influence the decision, nor did the prospects of playing with an injured knee or on a Chief team in decline.

He said he is quitting because he just doesn’t want to work hard at this game anymore.

“After the season, it just came upon me all of a sudden,” he said. “I was not as fired up about working out. I did not look forward to it as much as I did before.

“It was like I wasn’t even fired up about taking that walk down that street to work out with the guys near Jerry Rice’s house anymore.”

Montana will retire with just two NFL passing records--most consecutive 400-yard passing games, five, and most consecutive completions in a game, 22 twice. But nobody has performed better in bigger games.

He said the three memories he cherishes most are Dwight Clark’s catch in the 1981 NFC championship game, John Taylor’s Super Bowl-winning catch after the 1988 season and the 31-28 comeback victory for the Chiefs in Denver last year.

New memories, he said, will come from golf, piloting airplanes and perhaps even a job as a network football commentator.

Not that he’ll break a sweat in any of them.

“I brought an airplane down the other day in 20-m.p.h. winds and driving rain, and when we landed, my instructor gave me a high-five,” Montana said, shrugging. “I looked at him and said, ‘You mean I did all of that myself?’ ”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The End of the Road for Montana

Highlights of the professional football career of Joe Montana, who retired Tuesday.

Legendary Years

1979 -- Selected in the third round of the NFL Draft, the 82nd pick overall. 1981 -- Engineered the drive that resulted in “The Catch”, the last-minute toss to Dwight Clark to win the NFC Championship over Dallas. Won Super Bowl XVI MVP award as 49ers beat Cincinnati. 1984 -- Set Super Bowl records with 331 passing yards and 59 yards rushing as 49ers stopped Miami. Named Super Bowl MVP and started Pro Bowl. 1988 -- Threw team-record 96-yard TD pass to Jerry Rice versus San Diego. Won Super Bowl XXIII with last-minute drive against Cincinnati, culminating in 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor. Had Super Bowl record 357 yards passing. 1989 -- Won regular season league MVP award. Named All-NFC, All-Pro, Pro Bowl starter, Sporting News Man of the Year. Won Super Bowl XXIV MVP award and became the first player in NFL history to be three-time Super Bowl MVP. 1990 -- Named NFL MVP for second straight year, and Sports Illustrated Man of the Year. Set team record with 3,944 passing yards. Dec. 26, 1992 -- After missing 31 consecutive games and nearly two seasons, Montana played the second half of a Monday night game against Detroit, throwing two touchdown passes as the 49ers defeated the Lions, 24-6. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 126 yards. 1993 -- After being traded by San Francisco to Kansas City, he led the Chiefs to an 11-5 record, the team’s first division title in 22 years, two playoff victories, and Kansas City’s first appearance in the AFC Championship. 1994 -- The Chiefs finished 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team, but they lose to Miami, 21-17, in the first round.

Career Rankings among passing leaders

* Fourth in touchdown passes with 273 * Fourth in passing yards with 40,551

Honors

* All-NFC -- 1981, 1984-85, 1987, 1989. * Pro Bowl -- 1982, 1984-86, 1988, 1990-91, 1994. * Super Bowl MVP -- XVI (1982), XIX (1985), XXIV (1990). * NFL MVP -- 1989, 1990. * NFL Player of the Year -- 1990.

San Francisco 49er club record (career)

* Most seasons, 3,000-or-more yards passing -- 7 (1981, 1983-85, 1987, 1989-90). * Attempts -- 4,600 * Completions -- 2,929 * Yards gained -- 35,124 * Touchdown passes -- 244

Source: The Associated Press

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Joe Montana’s Statistics

REGULAR SEASON

Year Cmp Att Pct. Yds TD Int 1979 SF 13 23 .565 96 1 0 1980 SF 176 273 .645 1795 15 9 1981 SF 311 488 .637 3565 19 12 1982 SF 213 346 .616 2613 17 11 1983 SF 332 515 .645 3910 26 12 1984 SF 279 432 .646 3630 28 10 1985 SF 303 494 .613 3653 27 13 1986 SF 191 307 .622 2236 8 9 1987 SF 266 398 .668 3054 31 13 1988 SF 238 397 .599 2981 18 10 1989 SF 271 386 .702 3521 26 8 1990 SF 321 520 .617 3944 26 16 1991 SF Did Not Play 1992 SF 15 21 .714 126 2 0 1993 KC 181 298 .607 2144 13 7 1994 KC 299 493 .606 3283 16 9 Totals 3409 5391 .632 40551 273 139

PLAYOFFS

Year Cmp Att Pct. Yds TD Int 1981 SF 56 88 .636 747 6 4 1983 SF 45 79 .569 548 4 2 1984 SF 67 108 .620 873 7 5 1985 SF 26 47 .553 296 0 1 1986 SF 8 15 .533 98 0 2 1987 SF 12 26 .461 109 0 1 1988 SF 56 90 .622 823 8 1 1989 SF 65 83 .783 800 11 0 1990 SF 40 57 .701 464 3 1 1992 SF Did Not Play 1993 KC 59 104 .567 700 4 3 1994 KC 26 37 .702 314 2 1 Totals 460 734 .626 5772 45 21


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