- Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of San Francisco's 26-21 victory over Cincinnati in Pontiac, Mich., a watershed achievement in many ways. It launched a dynasty in which the 49ers won five titles in 14 seasons, and it connected them to local sports fans more deeply than any other team in the Bay Area.
But glory came with a steep price, as many players on the '81 team have learned since they carried coach Bill Walsh off the field at the Silverdome. Professional football's primitive core -- enormous men running swiftly and colliding violently -- can exact a lifelong physical toll.
The Chronicle interviewed 30 players from the 1981 team in recent months, ranging in age from 47 to 59. Twenty of those players cope with significant physical issues today, from arthritis to chronic back pain to joint replacements. Two (including [Joe] Montana) have had spinal fusion surgery, two have had knee replacements and one has had a shoulder replacement.