STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -Bill Walsh's family and friends joined the football fraternity in remembering the Hall of Fame coach at a quietly buoyant memorial service Thursday, praising the 49ers great as both an innovative leader and a loyal friend.
More than 1,000 mourners gathered at Stanford Memorial Church to honor Walsh, who died of leukemia on July 30 at 75.
They walked to the church through solemn rows of Stanford football players wearing their jerseys in honor of Walsh, who won three Super Bowls and revolutionized many aspects of the NFL during a decade on the San Francisco sideline.
``He was a man who stood astride the football culture in America like a colossus for 10 years,'' said Harry Edwards, a noted sports sociologist and longtime friend who delivered Walsh's eulogy. ``He walked with generals, senators and secretaries of state, but never lost his common touch.''
Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young made poignant remarks in a ceremony livened by joyous music from San Francisco's famed Glide Ensemble choir - just as Walsh envisioned when the consummate planner made arrangements for his own service in the months before his death.
``Bill died the way he lived: with sublime grace and with class,'' said former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who hired Walsh. ``Up until the very end, Bill led us by example. ... Nearing the end, he always said that we were in the fourth quarter. Bill managed that fourth quarter with flawless accuracy.''
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Sen. Dianne Feinstein also praised Walsh's forward thinking and vision for his team and the Bay Area community. Feinstein, the San Francisco mayor when Walsh took over the 49ers in 1979, recalled the team's ability to lift its beleaguered city with three championships.
Walsh, who didn't become an NFL head coach until he was 47, went 102-63-1 with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles. He was voted NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984.
Most of the prominent coaches who trace their success to a job under Walsh attended the service, including George Seifert, Mike Holmgren, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes and Pete Carroll, along with Walsh's former peers and friends, such as Don Shula, Dick Vermeil and John Madden. Current 49ers coach Mike Nolan read a passage of scripture.
Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott joined dozens of Walsh's former players with the 49ers and at Stanford, where he coached two terms over five seasons.
``I live my life partly because of the way he molded me,'' a teary-eyed Montana said. ``He took a 189-pound, skinny-legged quarterback out of western Pennsylvania and gave me the opportunity to continue doing something that I loved.''
Thousands of 49ers fans are expected at Candlestick Park on Friday for a public memorial service honoring Walsh.
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