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BOOS HAVE TURNED TO CHEERS FOR RICE

Ten years ago, they engulfed Jerry Rice. They were incessant, they were loud. They were cruel.

They caused him to doubt ability and desire that on Monday night made him the most prolific touchdown scorer in NFL history.The boos.

Rice, long etched onto the tableau of football lore, scored three touchdowns against the Raiders. The last, which finished a 44-14 49ers pummeling, came with 4:05 remaining. It gave Rice 127 for his career and thrust him past Walter Payton and Jim Brown for the No. 1 spot.

It was quite a journey.

In 1985, a Division II nobody, Rice was drafted in the first round by San Francisco and tried so hard to justify that confidence that he couldn't do anything right; or rather, he couldn't catch anything right.

And the vicious Candlestick Park fans made him pay. He would step on the field and be booed. He would drop another pass and be booed. He would run to the sideline, head down, and be booed again.

"I tried so hard to be an impact player," Rice remembered. "I tried so hard, and nothing happened. But, as hard as it was then, that time made me a better football player. It made me learn what the NFL was about."

Rice's first TD Monday was pure speed. He simply raced past Raiders cornerback Lionel Washington midway through the opening period, caught the ball and scored. Third play from scrimmage, 69 yards.

The second score was a 23-yard reverse opening the fourth quarter. More speed. Rice ran through Anthony Smith and Eddie Anderson.

The third and record-setting touchdown was hands. 49ers quarterback Steve Young was hit as he delivered the ball, leaving it 3 yards short of the end zone.

When Rice scored his second touchdown and again later when he scored his third, the record crowd of 68,032 at Candlestick Park chanted his name.

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.

"What a privilege to see one of the great moments in football history," 49ers coach George Seifert said. "The man is obviously the greatest wide receiver to play the game."

A remarkable 10 years it's been.