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Steelers retire Franco Harris' No. 32 during emotional halftime ceremony days after Hall of Famer's death

"It wasn't supposed to be like this."

That's how Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II prefaced Saturday evening's bittersweet jersey retirement ceremony for franchise icon Franco Harris. The Hall of Fame running back, whose "Immaculate Reception" launched a dynasty 50 years ago this week, died Tuesday at the age of 72, just days before he was set to be honored, along with his 1972 Steelers teammates, and become just the third member of the franchise to have his number retired.

Harris' death cast a pall over a week that was supposed to be a warm celebration of his career and an iconic Steelers moment. Still, in frigid temperatures at halftime of Pittsburgh's 13-10 comeback win over the Raiders at Acrisure Stadium, Harris' family (widow Dana and son Dok), Steelers ownership, alumni and fans braved the elements to pay their tributes to the Steel City standout.

"The big man was supposed to be standing here right next to me," Rooney said during the ceremony. "But I want to thank Dana and Dok for being here tonight, for sharing Franco with us for the last 50 years.

"It's been said, 'Life will bring you sorrow, but it's up to us to bring the joy.' Franco brought us joy for 50 years.

"So in recognition of his many contributions, both on and off the field, it's my honor to declare No. 32 as officially retired."

Steelers fans roared with chants of "Fran-co! Fran-co!" as Rooney then presented Harris' widow and son with a No. 32 jersey. It wasn't the first time Saturday night cheers broke out for the Hall of Famer.

During pregame introductions, Steelers stalwart Cameron Heyward ran out of the tunnel hoisting a massive black No. 32 flag to a notable ovation. He was one of myriad Steelers players and coaches who arrived to the stadium wearing Harris' No. 32 jersey.

Harris was then honored with a moment of silence before the singing of the national anthem.

"We had a chance to be a part of Steeler history tonight," coach Mike Tomlin said after the emotional win, clad in Harris' jersey. "We don't take that lightly, man. We're just so appreciative of the ground that's been laid by those that have come before us, like this man's jersey that I'm wearing right here. We get to enjoy the fruit of their labor daily, man, just in terms of the standard of expectation here in Pittsburgh, the relationship that we have with our fan base, man. We just wanted to honor him, his teammates and all the men that have come before us that's made the black and gold what it is."

The ceremony, attended by the likes of Steelers legends Mel Blount, Joe Greene and John Fuqua and witnessed by a dedicated throng of Terrible Towelers willing to brave single-digits temps on Christmas Eve, marked the close of a week of mourning and celebration of Harris, during which the football world remembered fondly a truly unforgettable player and individual.

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