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Remembering Dwight Clark, Star 49ers Player And Garinger High Grad

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Kane Chitty
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Garinger Growler
Dwight Clark, left, accepted a Golden Football Award from Garinger High School Athletic Director Tony Huggins at a ceremony in 2016

Before Dwight Clark made his now-immortalized catch in a 1982 NFC championship game, before he became Sports Illustrated's Player of the Year and before he became a two-time Super Bowl champion, he was a regular student at Garinger High School in east Charlotte, with dreams of one day playing in the big leagues.

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Credit Nick de la Canal/ WFAE
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Dwight Clark's jersey hangs in the Garinger High School front office.

Clark died Monday after a years-long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 61.

Born in Kinston, North Carolina, Clark later moved with his family to Charlotte, where he enrolled in Garinger High and joined the football team. At the time, the high school didn't have a stadium. The team practiced in a dirt field and played their games at Memorial Stadium off Kings Drive.

He graduated in 1975 and enrolled in Clemson University on scholarship, where he also played football, and was later drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.

He rocketed to NFL fame in a 1982 NFC championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, in which Clark made a leaping catch in the final minute of play, scoring a game-winning touchdown and propelling the team to the Super Bowl. The play has since been immortalized as "The Catch."

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Credit Nick de la Canal/ WFAE
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A handwritten note left by Clark hangs in Garinger High School's front office.

In 2016, Clark returned to his old alma mater in Charlotte to accept a "Golden Football" award. Tony Huggins, the Garinger High School's athletic director, remembered him as genuine and down-to-earth.

"We talked about how much I loved his catch - not because of the catch, but because they beat the Dallas Cowboys," Huggins said.

During that 2016 visit, Clark left behind a signed jersey and a handwritten note, both of which still hang in the school's front office - a fond memory of a beloved former Charlottean.