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The San Francisco 49ers family, which includes those currently within the organization, those who once played for the organization, and the fans worldwide, are still in shock over Dwight Clark's announcement on Sunday. "After months of tests and treatment, I got some bad news," the 49er legend said via a statement. "I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Those words are still very hard for me to say.
"While I'm still trying to wrap my head around the challenge I will face with this disease over the coming years, the only thing I know is that I'm going to fight like hell and live every day to the fullest."
Clark means a lot to the 49ers organization. He is the man who helped catapult the franchise into relevance on January 10, 1982. "The Catch" is iconic and a play in 49ers history that will forever be remembered by the fans who witnessed it and pass on those memories to future generations. At games, his jersey is proudly worn just like other 49ers legends such as Montana, Rice, or Lott.
"I've got to devote all my energy preparing for this battle and I would hope you can respect my family's privacy as I begin this challenge," Clark wrote. "My ultimate hope is that eventually I can assist in finding a cure for ALS, which disrupts the lives of so many and their loved ones."
While the disease may be incurable, that doesn't mean that there aren't ways to help. There is the ALS Association, to which you can donate. "Established in 1985, The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig's Disease on every front," explains its official website.
"Clark becomes at least the sixth former player in the past 10 years to be diagnosed with this incurable disease that gradually shuts down every muscle in the body," writes Peter King of TheMMQB.
"I've been asked if playing football caused this," Clark wrote. "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."
Of course, thoughts and prayers are going out to Clark from his family, friends, and fans. He also has the support of former teammates.
"Dwight Clark is one of those guys that lights up the room – always smiling and making you feel great. When I heard the news, I like others in the 49er family, was devastated. DC changed the course of the 49ers with the catch. Don't be surprised if he changes the course of this disease as well. Love you brother!"
- Harris Barton
"Dwight is like a brother to me. This news crushed me. I've vowed to him to be here for whatever he needs from me. Whenever or wherever. He deserves all our heartfelt support."
- Roger Craig
"There is nothing tougher than watching a great friend go through a serious health challenge. Dwight is handling this adversity with uncommon strength and the heart of a courageous champion, and our family's thoughts and prayers are constantly with Dwight and Kelly. I know that they are fully aware that we will continue to walk alongside them, and do anything and everything possible to help them through this tough time."
- Brent Jones
"To live with another of my best friends struggling with a disease like ALS is devastating. I'm asking all of us to not only send their prayers but I'm asking you to do whatever you can to fight this disease. Dwight will be a champion, which he has been able to show since I met him, since the first time he's hugged me and to this day moving forward."
- Ronnie Lott
"Jennifer and I are saddened by the diagnosis of Dwight. This is a difficult time for Dwight, Kelly and all of us who love him. He is family, and in our continual thoughts and prayers. We hope the public will be cognizant of Dwight's desire for privacy."
- Joe Montana
"DC has done so much for me as a player and friend. My rookie year he showed me how to run that out route! We know him for the catch but he's a great individual who cares about people. Please pray for him Faithful through this adversity!!! I love the guy!!!!"
- Jerry Rice
"We are here for Dwight. We are teammates for life and we will not allow him to go through this challenge alone. I am proud of the courageous way he is approaching this challenge. I will be here for him and with him. "
- Keena Turner
Former owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. also promised his support to his former player, who, like many others who played for the 49ers, DeBartolo sees as family.
"Dwight has been an integral part of my family's life for almost four decades. We are absolutely devastated. We vow to do everything in our power to support Dwight and Kelly and help them fight this horrible disease."
- Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
Even current 49ers CEO Jed York issued a statement following news of Clark's announcement.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of Dwight's recent diagnosis. As a member of our family, he will receive the full and unconditional support of the San Francisco 49ers. Many know Dwight as an iconic figure in 49ers lore, whose accomplishments on the field brought joy to fans around the world. Our organization is fortunate to know him more intimately as a wonderful man who has given so much of himself as an ambassador to the entire Bay Area. We will stand alongside Dwight and his family as they wage this battle."
- Jed York
One thing is certain: the legendary receiver won't be alone during his battle with ALS. Having recently lost a loved one to a destructive disease, I know how much the support from family and friends will help not only Clark during this difficult time, but those who care about him.
"Let's not sugarcoat this," said Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area on 95.7 The Game while discussing Clark. "[ALS] is an absolute battle and I can't think of anybody more prepared and more equipped to handle that battle with grace and dignity and with a fighting spirit than Dwight Clark."
You can read Clark's entire announcement letter here on Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.'s official website.