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Jerry Rice (still) fumbled: Former Green Bay safety remembers iconic Packers-49ers moment

Posted at 2:11 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 15:11:27-05

For better or for worse, there have been many memorable moments in the history of the Packers-49ers rivalry.

But one of the low points seems to stick with Packers fans more than the others: The 30-27 loss in the 1998 playoffs.

"We both had really good teams," former Packers safety Scott McGarrahan said. "Storied franchises."

"We knew it was going to be a close game," he said.

And it was. With two minutes left, Brett Favre hit Antonio Freeman to put Green Bay up 27-23.

With less than a minute to go, it looked like the Packers defense closed the game out, as McGarrahan knocked the ball out of Jerry Rice's hands and Bernardo Harris recovered the apparent fumble.

"Jerry kind of cut back and I reached out with my right hand and hit the ball," McGarrahan said. "But it happened so fast you just don't know if he was down yet."

"We were screaming fumble. We all thought for sure that the game was over."

But the referees didn't see it that way.

"They had a discussion and they decided to rule in San Francisco's favor," he said. "A couple plays later (Terrell Owens) scored and the rest was history."

That loss marked the end of an era. It was Reggie White's final game and the following week Mike Holmgren left for Seattle.

McGarrahan went on to play eight years in the NFL. He played only three seasons in Green Bay, but said he will always consider himself a Packer.

"I mean still to this day I get letters in the mail from fans of the Packers and the fact that that's happening 20 something years later is a testament to how passionate (Packers fans) are," he said.

He said a lot of those letters reference the Jerry Rice fumble-that-wasn't.

"I think that's a play that most Packers fans will always remember if they were alive at the time," he said.

Had it been ruled a fumble, McGarrahan would be a Packers folk hero. Even still, he feels he left his mark on the NFL - as that play helped re-implement replay review back into the game.

"It did help get instant replay across the finish line," he said. "At the time we were debating if we should have it or not."

"That's forever changed," McGarrahan added. "The fact that I've been able to in some small part be associated with that I think is pretty cool."

The Packers play the 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. It will be the 9th all-time playoff meeting between the two iconic franchises. Each team has won four of the previous eight.