SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Retired San Francisco 49ers legend and beloved Bay Area sports figure Dwight Clark has passed away Monday after a battle with ALS, according to his family. He was 61 years old.
The news was made public Monday afternoon after Clark’s wife Kelly posted the sad news through his official Twitter handle.
Kelly Clark said he “passed peacefully” and was surrounded by family.
The NFL, Sports Illustrated and Clark’s former team and teammates Joe Montana and Jerry Rice all expressed their condolences on social media.
The team also issued a statement.
“The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark. We extend our condolences and prayers to Dwight’s wife, Kelly, his family, friends and fans, as we join together to mourn the death of one the most beloved figures in 49ers history,” the statement read. “For almost four decades, he served as a charismatic ambassador for our team and the Bay Area. Dwight’s personality and his sense of humor endeared him to everyone he came into contact with, even during his most trying times. The strength, perseverance and grace with which he battled ALS will long serve as an inspiration to so many. Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease.”
Clark went public about his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease in March of last year. He said he suspected playing football might have caused the illness.
Clark announced on March 19, 2017, on Twitter that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that attacks cells that control muscles.
The former San Francisco 49er great linked to a post on his personal blog detailing his ALS diagnosis, but the site crashed that night, apparently from an overflow of traffic.
He said that after months of treatment, he was finally diagnosed.
“There is no test that will positively diagnose you with ALS. You have to eliminate the possibility of all other diseases and disorders and then wait to see what additional symptoms you develop,” Clark said.
In the statement, Clark said he visited six neurologists and three ALS specialists in addition to receiving treatment for B12 deficiency, a condition that can mirror the symptoms of ALS.
Since going public, Clark has been honored by the team and his former teammates, who worked with Clark to support him during his battle with ALS.
Clark was drafted in the 10th round out of Clemson University by the 49ers in 1979. He played for the team for eight seasons, tallying 506 catches for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns during his career.
Clark is best remembered for “The Catch,” where Joe Montana threw a game-winning touchdown to Clark with 51 seconds remaining in the game against the Cowboys that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1981.
He also worked as a team executive for the 49ers and served as the General Manager and Director of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns from 1999–2002.