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36 days until 49ers kickoff: The Hall of Famer wore it best

The San Francisco 49ers season starts in 36 days. We take a look at jersey No. 36, worn by the man behind the chicken dance.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game. means San Francisco is now a mere 36 days away from kicking off its 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.

Who wore it best: FS Merton Hanks (1991-1998)

This was not a difficult one to pick. The 49ers have had a few different solid players wear the number 36, but the best was Merton Hanks. The 49ers drafted the defensive back in the fifth round of the 1991 NFL Draft. He actually opened his career as a cornerback for one season, and then a strong safety for another season. However, in 1993 he moved to free safety and was off to the races.

Over the course of his career, Hanks was voted to four Pro Bowls, and was named All Pro once on the first team, and twice on the second team. He was a turnover machine, finishing his career with 33 interceptions and ten fumble recoveries. His interception total was good for fourth in franchise history, while his ten fumble recoveries was good for fifth among 49ers defensive backs.

Hanks returned five turnovers for touchdowns, but it somehow always felt like more. My guess is that part of the reason for that was due to his famous celebration. His chicken dance was one of the greatest celebrations in NFL history. I dropped in a couple videos at the bottom. The first is a compilation set to some weird music. The second includes Al Michaels play-by-play as Hanks picks off John Elway.

Who wears it now: CB Dontae Johnson (2014-present)

The 49ers have kept the number going with three different cornerbacks wearing it since Hanks departed the 49ers. Jason Webster wore it from 2000 to 2003, Shawntae Spencer wore it from 2004 to 2011, and now Dontae Johnson is wearing it for the second straight year.

Johnson moved into the lineup following numerous injuries at the cornerback position. Early on he was looking like a dime back, but by the end of the season he was starting. Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright are expected to be the starers this year, but Johnson has been getting significant work through the first week of training camp. He would come on in the nickel, going outside while Tramaine Brock moved in over the slot. If Jimmie Ward's foot does not get better soon, I think Johnson claims time in the nickel. If Ward's foot improves, it will be interesting to see how that competition goes.


One example from interception of John Elway