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Nevada native excited to return to home state for Super Bowl

Updated February 8, 2024 - 6:00 am

The play already has a name, the latest remarkable catch for a San Francisco 49ers franchise that has seen its share during the past five decades.

This one is called the “Immaculate Deflection,” and it came courtesy of Brandon Aiyuk.

The spectacular grab was one of the catalysts for the 49ers’ come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Lions in the NFC championship game on Jan. 28.

As a reward, the Reno native will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 58, which takes place in his home state at Allegiant Stadium.

“That’s probably been my No. 1 question I’ve got since I’ve got here,” Aiyuk said of returning to the Silver State. “It means a lot to be back here in Nevada. It’s a bunch of fun. It just feels like the journey has come full circle.”

With the 49ers trailing Detroit 24-10 and on the ropes in the third quarter, quarterback Brock Purdy heaved a pass downfield that deflected off the hands and then the face mask of Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor.

Aiyuk made a diving grab for a 51-yard gain, and he scored on a 6-yard reception three plays later to cut Detroit’s lead to 24-17. The 49ers went on to a 34-31 victory.

During a postgame interview on Fox, Aiyuk said a ladybug landed on his shoe before the game, and he took that as a sign of good luck.

“It’s like as if we just hit a halfcourt shot,” receiver Jauan Jennings said. “That’s just what it felt like. That’s why we play this game, to see plays like that. To be a part of a play like that, it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The 49ers have produced some of the NFL’s most iconic postseason receptions, starting with “The Catch” by Dwight Clark during the NFC championship game on Jan. 10, 1982.

There’s also the “Redemption Reception” by Terrell Owens against the Packers on Jan. 3, 1999, along with “The Catch III” by Vernon Davis on Jan. 14, 2012, to beat the Saints.

Aiyuk’s grab is sure to be mentioned alongside those historic plays.

“I’m still enjoying it today,” the fourth-year receiver said. “I’ll probably enjoy it for the rest of my life.”

Aiyuk was lightly recruited at Reno’s McQueen High School before landing at Sierra College in Rocklin, California, where he starred as a receiver and returner. He went on to an All-America career at Arizona State and was selected by the 49ers in the first round of the 2020 draft.

But after a solid rookie season, Aiyuk landed in the doghouse early in 2021. Coach Kyle Shanahan is notoriously hard on receivers and rode Aiyuk to develop more consistency and better practice habits.

Aiyuk emerged as a key contributor during the second half of the season as the 49ers reached the NFC championship game. He posted a career-best 78 catches in 2022 and quietly followed up with his best season as part of the 49ers’ star-studded offense.

Aiyuk was seventh in the league with 1,342 receiving yards during the regular season and averaged a career-best 17.9 yards per catch.

“He got a great release,” 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward said. “Great routes. Great at the catch point. Great blocker. Great with the ball in his hands. He can do it all.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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