Alex Smith

Former 49ers QB Smith recalls favorite Candlestick Park memory

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Many 49ers fans won't ever forget San Francisco's 36-32 final-second NFC divisional round win over the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints in 2011 -- and neither will Alex Smith.

Even 13 years later, the former 49ers quarterback confessed he can't get the image of Candlestick Park out of his head following the thrilling victory that cemented his legacy in San Francisco and beyond.

"I can't get the image of Candlestick at the end of that game, certainly the back and forth in the fourth quarter. I've never heard a place so loud that it did kind of come to life," Smith said during a 49ers QBs panel at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series event Thursday night at San Jose’s California Theatre. "And Candlestick for me was so different."

Sitting beside Smith at the panel were former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia, Hall of Famer and 49ers legend Steve Young and current 49ers quarterback sensation Brock Purdy, along with host of the event and NBC Sports Bay Area's 49ers insider Matt Maiocco.

Candlestick Park was home to the 49ers (and San Francisco Giants) until 2013, when the team relocated down to the South Bay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

But even though the 49ers haven't played there for more than a decade now, the memories at the painfully chilly stadium live on. Even the not-so-pretty parts of the stadium are now viewed as beautiful memories that Smith -- and those who played or watched a game at "The Stick" -- will forever cherish.

"And Brock, you probably don't know this, but this tunnel Jeff is talking about, it was like a 100-yard tunnel! There are pipes above you that are leaking, it's all cement," Smith said. "It's really creepy. And it had its own weather system. It would be sunny down here [in San Jose] and like 75 [degrees], you go up there [San Francisco] and it was drizzly and windy. And I didn't understand the nostalgia for a long time. It took me like seven years to develop this pride for Candlestick. A lot of years I was like, 'It's wet again. Why is it raining again?'

"But then you would look across the way at the other quarterbacks and it would play head games with them. One of the guys it would mess with the most was Drew Brees. We happened to get them [in the divisional round]. We were both 13-3. We got the home game because of the tiebreaker. They were complaining about it. They had just won a Super Bowl. One of the most prolific offenses in the history of football. Drew, one of the best quarterbacks ever. We're no match for them. I'm a game manager, we're running the ball. We very much didn't have a chance."

But Smith and the 49ers kept fighting, and after four different lead changes in the final four minutes of the game, The Catch III changed everything.

Down three with 14 seconds remaining, Smith found and connected with tight end Vernon Davis in the end zone to regain the lead and ultimately secure the huge victory.

It was an emotional win for the 49ers, and it singlehandedly changed Smith's career.

"We jumped up on them, and they come roaring back," Smith recalled. "[Brees] throws the jump ball to Jimmy Graham and they go up. For me, our entire team, there were so many of us who had gone through the seven coordinators in seven years. Frank Gore, Vernon, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis, and there were so many guys that had been through a lot of crap. And I think it was certainly a moment for all of us to kind of come together and win it like that. Certainly a lot of things have to go right, but it's the image.

"Every time I'm driving past Candlestick Park now and the sign still says Candlestick Park, I got my kids in the car and they're very tired of this every single time we drive by, that's the game. I can't get it out of my head how electric it was to be a part of that."

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