Montana, Lott Reunite at Hall

Saturday, July 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Ronnie Lott looked at the crowd during his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and saw a sea of red.

``It's like a Niners' home game,'' he said. ``I never saw so much red.''

Indeed, Saturday's induction ceremony could just as well have been held in the Bay area.

Three of the five inductees — Lott, Joe Montana and Dave Wilcox — were ex-49ers, with Wilcox playing a decade before the other two led San Francisco to four Super Bowls during the 1980s.

They were joined by Howie Long, the Raiders' star defensive linemen of the 1980s and '90s, along with Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rooney built the Steelers in to the NFL's best team in the '70s. Montana, on offense, and Lott, on defense, were the heart of the great San Francisco teams a decade later.

Montana and Lott each gave the other credit.

``Ronnie was part of the initial flip of the page,'' Montana said. ``When he joined us in 1981, that attitude carried over to the rest of the team.''

Saturday's ceremony was a greater gathering than usual of football talent. Of the Hall's 136 living members, 111 were expected to attend the induction ceremonies and a reunion.

The list includes Jim Brown, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Joe Namath, Roger Staubach and Sid Gillman. O.J. Simpson, Johnny Unitas, Earl Campbell and Fran Tarkenton have sent their regrets.

The reunion was the brainchild of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who said his only regret was that Walter Payton, the league's career rushing leader, won't be in attendance. Payton died in November.

``Unfortunately, it's probably the only thing Walter didn't live up to — showing up for this greatest reunion of all time,'' Tagliabue said.

All the inductees share the bond of playing on great teams.

Long, now an actor and NFL analyst for Fox, was a key member of the Raiders team that won the 1984 Super Bowl. Montana and Lott each won four Super Bowl rings with the 49ers.

Wilcox was a ruthless linebacker who played in seven Pro Bowls during his 11-year career. Rooney and his father, Art, were the architects of the Steelers dynasty that also won four Super Bowls.

Montana's induction has created a frenzy.

``Ever since Joe Montana retired, I've been getting letters from people saying that when he goes in, I want to be there,'' Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan said. ``And I think the only class that comes close to this one was in 1985 when Namath, Simpson, Shula, (Pete) Rozelle and Frank Gatski went in.''

Montana asked for credentials for 352 guests, eclipsing the mark of 310 set by Shula in 1997.

The inductees aren't the only thing that makes the weekend special. Dennis Miller will make his broadcast debut in ABC's ``Monday Night Football'' booth. The game, fittingly, pits the 49ers against New England.