The Oakland Tribune’s Jerry McDonald attended the contract signing designed to allow Jerry Rice to retire as a San Francisco 49er…and doesn’t even mention what the buffet was like!

The last time Jerry Rice attended a retirement ceremony at the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Centre, he may as well have been watching a “Steel Magnolias”/Terms of Endearment” double feature.

It was June 12, 2000, when Steve Young stood in the 49ers’ locker room and called it a career, choosing to leave football with his senses intact.

Young’s eyes were dry, the picture of a man at peace with his decision.

Rice was a mess.

He managed a few smiles as Young controlled the room with equal parts humor and humility, but mostly he cried like Dick Vermeil the day of the final roster cutdown.

It wasn’t hard to imagine Rice, then 37, envisioning his own football mortality.

œI know the clock is ticking for me also, Rice said that day.

It ticked for five more seasons, 343 receptions, 4,553 yards and 28 touchdowns. It ticked through one year with the 49ers, three with the Oakland Raiders and one with the Seattle Seahawks.

It ticked through training camp of the Denver Broncos before reality began to set in.

It ticked through œDancing with the Stars. Finally, under a tent outside the 49ers’ facility Thursday, Rice signed a ceremonial contract to end his career where he started it.

There wasn’t a teardrop in sight. Rice had apparently gotten them out of the way after it didn’t work out in Denver.

œI think I have shed my tears already, Rice said. œTo come back here and officially retire a 49er is a happy day.

He seemed to mean it, immediately cutting off a question about Junior Seau, the linebacker who announced his retirement last week only to sign with the New England Patriots four days later.

œI want to let you guys know I’m not going to pull a Junior Seau, Rice said. œThat’s not going to happen. It’s official today, and it’s going to stay that way.

Fine work, Jerry, but the producers of “Jocks Vs. Joes” will not soon forget the snub.

Days after Patriots holdout Deion Branch assured the adoring public a resolution was close to at hand, the Boston Globe’s Mike Reiss reports New England have given the wide receiver permission to find a new club and negotiate terms until September 1.  Translation for people who don’t care about the Patriots or Deion Branch’s career?  Consider drafting Ben Watson.