Immaculate call: Steelers to retire Harris’ No. 32

PITTSBURGH – As part of a weekend-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Welcome, the Steelers will retire Franco Harris’ number 32 jersey.

Joining Ernie Stoutner (70) and Joe Green (75), the number of running backs to be retired by the Steelers is only the third. Harris is also the first Steelers offensive player to retire his number.

“The immaculate reception marked a turning point in the history of the franchise,” said Steelers team president Art Rooney II. “My grandfather was once quoted as saying, ‘Before Franco came, we didn’t win much. We haven’t lost since he came here.’ I think it’s great. It will be hard to overestimate Franco’s impact on the franchise.”

Harris’ number will be retired on December 24 at halftime of the primetime game against the Oakland Raiders. The Steelers will also wear a special yellow patch on their jerseys to mark the 50th anniversary of the game.

Rooney asked the NFL for a home game on the weekend of the anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

“I told them we actually had the Raiders on our schedule this year, not thinking they would actually put the Raiders in Pittsburgh that weekend,” Rooney said. “So I was surprised when it happened.”

The day before, on the actual anniversary of Harris’ great game, the Steelers would hold a 3:29 p.m. ceremony outside the stadium at the exact same spot where Harris took the catch in 1972. Public and Harris, some of his teammates and former Raiders players Mike Ciani and Phil Villapiano attended. A replay of the radio broadcast will be available on the team’s website.

“In my wildest dreams, I never expected this and, and it never crossed my mind,” Harris said of retiring his number. “It wasn’t something that was top of mind. Steelers don’t retire numbers. So you have no idea about it. And so when Art mentioned it to me, I was blown away. I mean that It was a wow moment and unbelievable.”

Not only did Harris light up the immaculate reception, he was also a part of four Super Bowls and was the Super Bowl IX MVP. He also earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and was named NFL Man of the Year in 1976. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

“Nobody saw the Steelers of the ’70s coming,” Harris said. “No one noticed, and it was probably beyond all hopes and dreams.”

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