49ers beat Raiders in Rice's return, 20-17
SAN FRANCISCO Jerry Rice didn't plan on making a spectacular catch or scoring a game-winning touchdown in his latest maybe his last game on Candlestick Point.
Rice, who set every significant NFL receiving record in 16 seasons with the 49ers, returned to 3Com Park yesterday, starting for the Oakland Raiders in a 20-17 exhibition loss to San Francisco.
"It was difficult to come back here," Rice said. "I stayed up all night, just pacing around. It felt good just coming back here and basically let the fans know that I really appreciate what they have done for me, my entire career.
"It's a day I was looking forward to getting over."
Rice caught just one pass and played only three series, but he still was the center of attention in the Battle of the Bay.
Jonas Lewis rushed for an 8-yard TD with 13:11 left, and the 49ers' defense stopped the Raiders three times in the final minutes to seal the victory.
Not ready to retire at 38, Rice signed a two-year contract with the Raiders after the salary cap-strapped 49ers released him in June. His brief appearance highlighted an exciting game between the sometimes bitter rivals.
"He did a lot of great things when he was here, but Jerry Rice is gone," said Terrell Owens, who caught a 38-yard touchdown pass to upstage his mentor one more time. "That might not be what we want, but that's the way it is. I just thought the whole atmosphere was tremendous out here. I was having so much fun."
Looking sharp but strange in the Raiders' silver and black, Rice took the field about 45 minutes before game time, jogging out of the visitors' tunnel behind Tim Brown to scattered cheers from the half-full stands.
"They asked me, 'Why don't you lead the guys?' " Rice said. "I said, 'No, I'll probably go the wrong way.' "
Rice chatted with Jeff Garcia and Owens, who ran over to say hello. Later, Rice jogged across the field to hug San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci. Rice has said in recent months that he never felt comfortable playing for Mariucci, but both were all smiles when they met as opponents.
"We knew there was going to be a different feeling on the field than 49ers fans are used to seeing," Garcia said. "Luckily, that was taken care of early in the game. Jerry will always be close to a lot of us."
On the Raiders' fifth play from scrimmage, Rice caught a 23-yard slant from Rich Gannon a vintage Rice reception from an unfamiliar quarterback.
"We're going to have a regular season game against the 49ers next year. The nightmare goes on," Rice said with a grin.
Though Rice's return to 3Com Park was the most noteworthy part of the afternoon, fans didn't need any additional motivation to get excited for the meeting between their teams. Rice replica jerseys both in black and garnet dotted the packed stadium.
Mondriel Fulcher caught two touchdown passes for the Raiders, who couldn't score after rookie quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo took over for Bobby Hoying in the second half.