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Rice thinks Fitzgerald can pass him on receptions list

In the midst of the 16th season of his Hall of Fame career, upon another afternoon in the desert, Larry Fitzgerald hauled in the fifth pass of this particular Sunday and the 1,326th reception of a magnificent career.

With the catch, Fitzgerald passed Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez for second all-time on the NFL career receptions list.

Now, Fitzgerald's looking up at only one other player -- the incomparable Jerry Rice, regarded as the finest wide receiver to have ever played the game by all proponents of common sense.

Rice's receptions record sits at 1,549 and he stood on the sideline to greet Fitzgerald after the landmark moment Sunday.

"It was just great being there and to share that moment with him," Rice said Tuesday on NFL NOW. "I remember, you know, doing warm-ups, he was just throwing the ball back and forth with me. To see him get that fifth catch ... to get into that second spot and to be on hand right there for it is something I'll never forget. I have a lot of respect for this guy."

Rice has long been regarded for his competitive streak and he respects Fitzgerald for sharing the same trait.

"He's a very competitive guy -- also on the golf course. And we have played together a lot," Rice said, adding that the two played on the links recently. "Guess, who ended up winning that? I did. I think that really pissed him off, just a little bit. That's Larry Fitzgerald."

As it stands, Fitzgerald is on pace to finish in the neighborhood of 90 catches this season and could realistically catch Rice on the all-time receptions leaderboard during the 2021 campaign. Of course, that's provided Fitzgerald, 36, hangs around, as he contemplated retirement prior to the current season.

Perhaps catching Rice on the catch list is a motivating factor.

"He told me one thing. He was like, 'You know what, there's no celebration in being second,'" Rice said. "So, he's got me looking over my shoulder right now, because if anybody can do it, I think it's Larry Fitzgerald, because of his conditioning, his worth ethic and stuff like that. He's just a great football player.

"This is just Year 16 for him. I played 20 years and I think with the game today, I think you're going to see guys play much longer."

Along with the receptions top spot, Rice is also the all-time best in myriad other statistical categories, such as receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197), 1,000-yard receiving seasons (14), to name a few.

If Fitzgerald surpasses Rice in receptions, the man called "Jesus in Cleats" has plenty of records to fall back on -- and he was happy to point that out.

"It would be great to see. It's gonna take a couple more years," Rice said of Fitzgerald catching him. "I told him, I said, 'Well you know, Larry, if you break one of my records, I still got 36 more.'"

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