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Jerry Rice hits out of the rough during the Nationwide Tour's Fresh Express Classic.
Jerry Rice hits out of the rough during the Nationwide Tour's Fresh Express Classic.
Jerry Rice hits out of the rough during the Nationwide Tour's Fresh Express Classic.

NFL legend Jerry Rice is back - as a pro golfer

The TD king is ready to sack his putter after a round of 83 and admits the new game is the biggest challenge he has faced.

HAYWARD, CalifORNIA. // Jerry Rice finally found a sport in which he does the hitting. But after going 12 over par in his professional golf debut, he might wish he was still getting tackled on the football field. Rice, who holds the National Football League career record with 208 touchdowns, shot 83 in the first round of a Nationwide Tour event.

His first shot as a professional landed in knee-high grass about 20 yards off the fairway, leading to a double-bogey. He followed that with four double-bogeys, five bogeys and one birdie in the round. "My first NFL starts were bumpy - I was dropping footballs all over the place," Rice, who was tied for 153rd place in the 155-player field, said in a blog he is writing for the PGA Tour's website. "And my putter is toast. I am going to melt it down. You won't see it again."

Rice, 47, spent 20 seasons as an NFL receiver, the first 16 with the San Francisco 49ers. He set NFL records by catching 197 touchdown passes and gaining 22,895 yards on receptions. Rice, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, retired after the 2004 season. He took second place with his partner Anna Trebunskaya on the television show Dancing With the Stars in 2006, and spends much of his free time on the golf course, indulging a passion he discovered while still in the NFL.

"I feel like I've never had something to really challenge me as much as golf," Rice told reporters before the tournament. "I love the game." His debut on the Nationwide Tour, a step below the PGA Tour, certainly was a challenge for Rice - who ended the first day 20 shots behind Fresh Express Classic leader Dicky Pride of the United States. He improved somewhat on the second day, shooting a 76. * The Washington Post

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