Atlanta fans witnessed O.J. Simpson’s final NFL game

Nearly 45 years ago, O.J. Simpson walked off an NFL field for the last time — in Atlanta.

The running back, who was 32 at the time, was a shadow of his former self during that 1979 game between his hometown San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons, thanks to a lengthy career and numerous injuries over the years to his knees and legs. What fans saw that cool afternoon at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was the end of an era and a player long past his prime.

Before he was embroiled in one of the most famous murder cases of the last century, Simpson was one of the most recognized athletes in the world. Roughly 19 years after he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles, Simpson died Wednesday after battling cancer, his family announced on his X account.

On Dec. 16, 1979, Simpson got a different type of escort by police, waving to the Atlanta crowd as he headed to the locker room after the Falcons’ 31-21 come-from-behind victory. He had rushed just twice in that game for only 12 yards, helping him finish a Hall of Fame career with 11,236 rushing yards. His final carry was for 10 yards and a first down.

While jogging off, he held his head high, put his right fist in the air and appeared satisfied with his 11-year NFL career.

Before a two-year stint in San Francisco, “The Juice” spent nine seasons in Buffalo, rushing for 10,183 yards, including more than 2,000 during the historic 1973 season. He won four NFL rushing titles and played in five Pro Bowls.

He eventually entered the entertainment world, working in broadcasting and appearing in a myriad of TV and commercial roles throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.

But then came the Bronco chase, the glove and the murder trial that captivated the world. It was a rapid and shocking fall from grace. In October 1995, he was acquitted of the murder charges, but he later was found liable in a civil trial.

Following his death, Pro Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter told the Associated Press that Simpson’s on-field contributions would be preserved in the archives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.