Sudden impact: Rice out for year 49er's injury diagnosed as cracked kneecap


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. And, now, it is one of the shortest.

One day after 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending injury he was back in surgery, this time to repair a cracked left kneecap.

Rice suffered a transverse fracture of the patella when he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in Monday's game against Denver and was knocked to the ground by safety Steve Atwater.

Initially, physicians believed the injury to be no worse than a bruise, but subsequent evaluation, including a CT scan yesterday morning, revealed that Rice suffered a cracked kneecap when it struck the 3Com Park turf.

Rice underwent surgery early yesterday afternoon at Stanford Hospital, with Michael Dillingham, the 49ers' orthopedist, performing the operation. Rice will miss the rest of the season.

"All structural damage to Jerry's knee that was previously operated on was in great shape," said Dilling- ham, who reconstructed Rice's knee after he tore ligaments and cartilage in the Aug. 31 opener. "The patella fracture was in good position and fixed with screws.

"Jerry should be in a brace for about six weeks and could begin rehab in about one week. His prognosis is very encouraging, and he is expected to fully participate in the post-draft minicamps."

Coach Steve Mariucci said that Rice's injury normally requires eight to 10 weeks for recovery.

"It's unfortunate what happened, but, shoot, I wouldn't go back and change anything," Rice told KGO-TV shortly after being released from the hospital last night. "The atmosphere [Monday] night was unbelievable, and I think it was the right decision. It didn't work out like I wanted it to, but just being out there, having Joe's jersey retired and being a part of it. I felt like I was ready, and I sparked the team. Running on that football field, having the fans support me and having my wife behind me, it was worth it."

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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