If stadium security stops Jerry Rice from another end zone-to-end zone sprint to energize 49ers fans next Sunday, it will be the first time a Super Bowl defense has slowed him down.
Don’t worry though. The greatest receiver of all-time promises to find another way to fill the role he earned during the NFC Championship game.
“I’m like their No. 1 cheerleader,” Rice told The Post. “I love what [coach] Kyle Shanahan and [general manager] John Lynch have done, where they brought that standard back and the players have bought into it. No one is bigger than the team.”
Dressed in a gray suit and white tennis shoes, Rice sent a charge through Levi’s Stadium last week by running crisp routes and stutter-stepping through the end zone as he caught passes during pregame warmups. The crowd chanted his name — like an echo from the past — when he ran a 100-yard sprint and threw his hands in the air asking for louder noise.
“I just wanted to get the fans fired up,” Rice said. “I wanted to prove to everybody that I can still run, run 100 yards, run fast. [Former teammate] Keena Turner was like, ‘You better stop before you pull something,’ but I continue my workouts.”
Rice, 57, looks capable of adding to his three most prominent Super Bowl records — 33 receptions for 589 yards and eight touchdowns in four games — if he wanted to ditch the suit to line up against the Chiefs in Super Bowl 2020. Maybe even add a chapter to his new book, “America’s Game: The NFL at 100.”
So, to steal the words of Turner and other ex-teammates who watched his now-viral sprint: “Man, how can you still do that?”
Well, Rice created a newly launched energy drink — G.O.A.T. Fuel — with a proprietary blend formula. The secrets don’t stop there. His workouts include CrossFit and Peloton.
“I’m always doing stuff to challenge myself,” Rice said. “When I played football, yeah, you knew I was an athlete, but after we retire we have a tendency to get a little bit out of shape. I wanted to be active after football.
“I think it showed on the football field. The fans just went crazy when I did that. They couldn’t believe, ‘How in the hell can this guy at 57 still run the 100?’ I might just be like Benjamin Button, [aging] in the opposite direction.”
As the 49ers dominated the Packers, television cameras again found Rice bouncing up and down on the sideline, wearing a huge gold chain connected to a team logo. The three-time Super Bowl champion is a regular around the 49ers.
“My tradition is I go out early and I interact with all of those guys and make myself accessible,” Rice said. “Kendrick Bourne was just asking me about route-running and I told him, ‘Be patient at the line of scrimmage. If you have a defensive back leaning, use that extra move to get full separation and don’t give the defensive back a chance to recover.’ ”
Though he finished his career with the Raiders and Seahawks, Rice says “my blood is Niners.”
“When the fans really started chanting my name, it brought back so many memories,” Rice said. “I was running down the field and I could hear the cheers. It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s just like being in the game. It felt just as good.”
Rice’s longtime quarterback Joe Montana, who finished his career with the Chiefs, hedged his bets by tweeting a picture of both team’s uniforms and saying he wins either way. That’s fine, says Rice.
“It’s a great matchup,” Rice said. “Patrick Mahomes has some great weapons. Their defense is going to be tested by the Niners. Jimmy G [Garoppolo] is going to do what he has to do. This is his opportunity. It’s going to come down to the quarterbacks. With our defensive line, we have to be able to get to Mahomes, cause havoc and cause some errant throws.”
For more on the NFL playoffs, listen to the latest episode of the “Gang’s All Here” podcast: