Dwight Clark, former 49ers receiver and playoff hero, dies at 61 after battle with ALS

Author: Sean Wagner-McGough, CBS Sports
Published: Updated:
Dwight Clark (Photo via MGN/ZUMA Press/Cliff / sportsillustrated / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Dwight Clark, the former receiver of the San Francisco 49ers who famously made “The Catch,” has died just over a year after opening up about his battle with ALS. He was 61.

Clark’s wife, Kelly, wrote a message on Clark’s Twitter account to share the news of his death.

“I’m heartbroken to tell you that today I lost my best friend and husband,” she wrote. “He passed peacefully surrounded by many of the people he loved most.”

Clark, a 10th-round pick (249th overall) out of Clemson in 1979, played for the 49ers from 1979-87. During his career, he caught 506 passes for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he added 48 receptions, 726 yards and three touchdowns. None were more memorable than his 6-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone against the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Now known as “The Catch,” Clark and Joe Montana’s touchdown sent the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI, where they defeated the Bengals. In all, Clark won two Super Bowls with the 49ers.

His career, by the numbers:

In May 2017, Clark revealed that he had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which is also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” After noticing symptoms in September 2015, he said that he was diagnosed with ALS months later.

“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” he wrote in May 2017. “I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.

“What I do know is I have a huge battle in front of me and I’m grateful for the strength and unconditional love from my wife Kelly. She has been my rock. She keeps thinking positive and convinces me each day that we can beat this, as does my daughter Casey and my son Mac. My brother Jeff, his wife Debra and their family also have been unwavering with their love and support.”

After Clark’s passing was announced, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo mourned Clark’s death in a statement, which you can read below (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times).

49ers legend Jerry Rice also shared his condolences.

As did Roger Craig.

NFL Network’s Mike Silver relayed a message from Joe and Jennifer Montana:

In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent his sympathies to the Clark family.

Finally, the 49ers addressed what they called a “tremendous loss” in their own statement.

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