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Thursday, December 20, 2012
What happened to the 'Immaculate' ball?

By Jamison Hensley

The debate over the Immaculate Reception is over who touched the ball first: Steelers halfback Frenchy Fuqua or Raiders safety Jack Tatum? But, as the Steelers plan to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the historic play on Sunday, do you know where the ball eventually landed?

Not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not in Franco Harris' trophy room. For the past four decades, the ball has been in a safe in the office of a Pittsburgh insurance agency.

Grantland's Kim Gamble tracks the strange journey of the ball that went from the hands of Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris to, eventually, Jim Baker. A 26-year-old fan at the time, Baker had ran onto the field in celebration and then watched the same ball that Harris had when he went into the end zone get used for the extra point. After the ball went through the uprights, it hit a cement wall, bounced into the corner of the end zone and ended up at the bottom of a pile of people. Baker wrestled it away, put it inside his nephew's coat and ran out of the stadium.

It's a must-read piece for anyone who watched the Immaculate Reception, the improbable winning touchdown against the Raiders in a 1972 AFC divisional playoff game. Sunday -- Dec. 23 -- marks 40 years to the day that the play occurred. On Saturday, the Steelers will unveil an Immaculate Reception monument near Heinz Field. The team, though, hasn't invited Baker to participate in any official tributes and has never asked to display the ball.