FLAG football game pits John Elway against Joe Montana in Mile High finale

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Storied Mile High Stadium is about to be demolished, but sports fans will be treated to a dream matchup before it meets the wrecking ball: John Elway vs. Joe Montana.

Elway will lead a team of former Denver Broncos against a squad of past NFL stars led by Montana in a flag football game next month, one day before the stadium is knocked down to provide parking for its replacement.

``I'm looking forward to playing a last game at Mile High. It's going to be hard watching it disappear into a parking lot,'' said Elway, who led the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles. ''I've told my kids you're going to be able to tell kids that their granddad played in that parking lot.''

The stadium was built in 1948 and was named after the old baseball team, the Bears. In the ensuing decade, an advertising company began marketing Denver as the ``Mile High City,'' reflecting its altitude of 5,280 feet. In 1968, the stadium was renamed Mile High, a nickname quickly adopted by fans, who have made it one of the noisiest venues in the National Football League.

Fans were the 12th man, selling out 229 straight games and enduring the agony of four Super Bowl blowouts before back-to-back victories led by Elway.

Elway is known for his late-game heroics that helped create the mystique of the stadium. He orchestrated 47 game-saving drives in his 16-year career, including 29 at Mile High.

But it was Montana and his San Francisco 49ers who handed Elway one of his three Super Bowl beatings _ including a 55-10 drubbing in 1990 _ before the Broncos' breakthrough win against the Green Bay Packers in 1998.

Montana, however, doesn't forget about the times he fell victim to the magic at Mile High.

``Most of my memories from Mile High are not good,'' said Montana, a four-time Super Bowl champion who retired after the 1994 football season.

But the football Hall of Famer noted that when he played for Kansas City, the Chiefs staved off an Elway-led comeback and won 31-28 in the final minutes of a Monday night game in 1994.

Elway said it was the only time he could remember losing like that at home in his career.

Both football greats said they planned to play extensively in the Sept. 15 flag football game, which will have four 15-minute quarters and be refereed by former NFL officials.

Elway will be joined by more than two dozen former Broncos, including Otis Armstrong and Steve Atwater. Montana will lead a roster of former NFL stars including Marcus Allen, Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett, Ed ``Too Tall'' Jones, Lawrence Taylor and William ``Refrigerator'' Perry.

Elway said he has been working out and can still throw a football well two years after retiring.

``It's the next day that you feel it,'' Elway said. Montana concurred.

``You pick it up and it's the best you ever felt,'' and thoughts of playing again pop into his mind, he said. ``The next morning it feels like your arm is going to fall off.''

Elway said he planned to have fun, especially because he will be able to call all the plays. But he offered one joking caution about Mile High's famous early-season snowfalls: ``If it snows, I don't play.''

The Denver Broncos will begin playing at their new home _ next door to Mile High _ this fall.