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Mississippi now has a day to honor the great Jerry Rice

Sept. 30 is the official time to celebrate the greatest NFL receiver ever

Jerry Rice has scored another touchdown.

Sept. 30 is now Jerry Rice Day in Mississippi, thanks to a proclamation signed last week by Gov. Phil Bryant honoring the former NFL wide receiver.

“This great athlete represents the best of Mississippi,” Bryant said.

“It’s really nice being back here in Mississippi. I got my start here and I want to thank everybody from Mississippi for this honor,” Rice said during a ceremony at the Mississippi Capitol.

It’s an honor the three-time Super Bowl champion and 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee credits to his Crawford, Mississippi, upbringing.

“I think growing up in a small town, I was hungry, and I kept the same approach when I got to the NFL, collegiatewise also,” Rice explained. “I never got to a point where I felt like I had arrived. I was always hungry. I think that was that fear of failure that really pushed me to be the best football player I could possibly be.”

Rice spent most of his illustrious 20-year pro career with the San Francisco 49ers, before playing with the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks.

“I have to pinch myself at some of the things that I have accomplished in the NFL,” he said.

8 Oct 2000: Jerry Rice #80 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates his touchdown with Derrick Deese #63 during a game against the Oakland Raiders at 3Com Park in San Francisco. The Raiders defeated the 49ers 34-28.

Tom Hauck /Allsport

The 49ers took Rice in the first round out of Mississippi Valley State University. Now with 1,549 career receptions for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns in the books, Rice said he never thought he would have the chance to play in the NFL.

“Before I started playing high school football, I was running around the country roads, 5 to 6 miles every day,” Rice said. “My mom would ask, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ and I would say, ‘I don’t know.’ I think I was preparing myself for something really special.”

Rice’s Mississippi homecoming honor comes one month after he was at the center of a Twitter storm, when he tweeted “All Lives Matter” in response to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem following recent killings of unarmed black men by police officers nationwide.

“I can’t say [Kaepernick delivered the right message in the wrong way] because you’ve got to look at what he has accomplished. He’s on Time magazine right now. I mean the word is out. I think that’s what he really wanted to do,” Rice explained. “We need to talk about it, and we need to come together as a whole and just do something about it.”

Rice’s homecoming tour continued on Saturday with halftime recognition at the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division matchup between Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State University.

It was a game he joked about suiting up for with “maybe 10 to 15 more routes in him” to run. And perhaps his alma mater could have used his help. Mississippi Valley State lost to Jackson State, 16-14.

Smiling for every picture, signing every autograph and embracing each fan who approached him, Rice said he has “been really blessed over the years to have the opportunity to really just touch so many lives.”

But don’t let his personable side fool you. He is very clear on that. “I’m not a very friendly guy when I’m competing, but after the ballgame you congratulate everyone and you do all that,” Rice said. “I lived for [competition]. I wanted to go up against the best because I think it brought out the best in me.”