Niners honor former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was honored as the inaugural inductee into the team's Hall of Fame on Sunday.

DeBartolo owned the team from 1977 to 1998, when the 49ers won five Super Bowls, and was affectionately known as "Mr. D" to his players and coaches.

Walking alongside several family members, DeBartolo was greeted with cheers of "Eddie, Eddie!" from the crowd at Candlestick Park during halftime of Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

A stage was set up at midfield, where Jerry Rice spoke and a plaque was unveiled honoring DeBartolo as the first inductee into the Eddie DeBartolo Sr. Hall of Fame.

"Eddie has set a standard in the NFL that has never been matched," said Rice, one of six former players who took part in the ceremony. "When you think of San Francisco, you think of the 49ers and of Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s legacy. He demanded perfection, and we delivered for him."

Among the players joining Rice at halftime were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott and former 49ers stars Dwight Clark, Roger Craig and Eric Davis.

Steve Young, another Hall of Famer who played for DeBartolo's teams, delivered a video tribute that was played on the stadium scoreboard.

"This is probably the last time that I will ever have an opportunity to stand before the people that have made such an impact on my life," DeBartolo told the crowd in a brief speech. "You are not 49er faithful. You are my 49er family. From the bottom of my heart, to everybody who has been with us, fought with us and struggled with us during my ownership, I thank you."

DeBartolo, 62, later told reporters he plans to help his nephew and current 49ers president Jed York in the team's efforts to land a new stadium deal.

"I told him I would help him with the stadium effort and do whatever I needed to do to help him," DeBartolo said. "Believe me, whether or not anybody wants to understand this, this is a family affair. I'm not involved in the ownership or management of the team, but I will be actively involved to help him wherever he needs me."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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