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Remembering an 'Immaculate' day

It's a play Steelers fans will always remember, even if they weren't at Three Rivers Stadium on that memorable day. Even fans who weren't born yet on that historical day in 1972 will always remember it.

Because it's a play that has been talked about, a play that has been shown over and over again.

A play that was voted the greatest play, and greatest moment, in NFL history.

One play that was all about destiny.

One play that would change so much.

There have been millions of plays in NFL history, but only one play was 'Immaculate.'

The 'Immaculate Reception.'

Today is the 49th anniversary of the 'Immaculate Reception,' the play that changed so much for the Steelers.

"It is unbelievable how this play has stood the test of time," said Franco Harris. "I would probably look at it this way. That play symbolized the spirit of winning, of never giving up and the unexpected can happen at the most unexpected time. I mention to people that The Chief, Mr. Art Rooney Sr., got on the elevator thinking we lost and when he got off, he got off a winner.

"When I still watch the play, I still just shake my head and have no clue how all of this happened. It's just so many aspects of the play don't really make football sense. How did it all come together? How did it all finish the way it did? It's just hard to think about all of the pieces that had to come together and when you break each one of those pieces up, one little thing could have disrupted it all, but it all came together at that moment.

"This moment has continued to live on and take a life of its own."

December 23, 1972 the Steelers win their first playoff game in dramatic fashion with a 13-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception."

When you hear 'Immaculate Reception,' your mind immediately goes back to that December day back in 1972. The iconic play happened at Three Rivers Stadium in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. the Oakland Raiders.

Raiders' quarterback Ken Stabler got his team fired up with a 30-yard touchdown run to give them a 7-6 lead with just 1:17 to play.

Things didn't look good for the Steelers, as they quickly found themselves in a hole, with quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the rest of the offense facing an intimidating fourth-and-10 from their own 40-yard line with just 22 seconds remaining.

Desperately searching for the team's first ever playoff win, it didn't look promising. But they never gave up. While under pressure, Bradshaw threw the ball in the direction of Frenchy Fuqua and as it arrived, he collided with Raiders' safety Jack Tatum, the ball ricocheted back and Harris miraculously scooped it out of the air and took off running for a 60-yard touchdown reception that gave the Steelers the 13-7 win and a wild celebration ensued.

"I don't think the fans knew what happened," said Fuqua, who was knocked to the ground after the collision. "Everyone I spoke to after I got up off the ground said what happened, what happened. Someone said it's a miracle. Then we had to go through that long, long wait when the referees went in there to look at replay and it seemed like an eternity."

It might have been appropriate to have to wait an eternity for a play that will live for eternity.

"One of the most exhilarating things to watch during that play is what happened after the play," said Harris. "When you see the fans' reaction and how they jump on the field, hugging players, players hugging fans. That is a great visual and a great feeling to see that moment. It was like the whole stadium erupted and that feeling that everybody had on that field. You can see it and you can feel it through the film, how special it was."

Through the passage of time the excitement of the play has remained and will always remain something nobody will ever forget, whether they saw it happen in person or learned about it years later.

"This play is special in so many ways," said Harris. "Part of it is because of the prior history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The prior fan reaction and feeling about the team. People always said the Steelers found a way to lose. I look at this play and we found a way to win. Even though we needed something immaculate to make it happen, we found a way to win. What made it special is that drive and feeling and attitude of finding a way to win has never left.

"When you look at what makes this so special, this started a string of playoff appearances and Super Bowl wins that never happened before in the NFL. Do we connect that to that first playoff win? I think we do. It gave a feeling to us players that we now are one of the best teams in the league. We went on to show we were the best team in the league.

"This play started our first step into what was to become an incredible run that continues today."