THANKS, JOE MONTANA

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It wasn't that long ago, was it, that "Broadway Joe" Namath came grinning out of Alabama to the Big Apple and danced right out onto that gridiron stage that led to near-instant fame and fortune for the great quarterback and actor and in turn all of professional football? He was "Mr. Flash," a totally sellable boy who charmed the sports fans of the nation and turned the TV spotlight on the game as never before.

And then before you know it, along came West Coast performer, clutch drive, drama-rich Joe Montana-"Mr. Class"-and the popularity of pro football widened again.

As Advertising Age's Bob Raissman documented and celebrated at the time, Joe Montana was just what sports marketing needed .... a matinee idol with plenty of verve and nerve and an eye for prime-time stardom. It's hard to imagine, but Joe Montana made it official; he will hang up that fabled uniform.

But his legacy will live on in the world of sports as entertainment. His persona enriched his team, his sponsors and sports in general. Gifted athletes whose class extended beyond the arena helped show the way for the Michael Jordans and other sports superstars of today and tomorrow. The growing interweaving of sports and sponsorship depends on the attributes Joe Montana exhibited on and off the field.

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