When ESPN’s Jon Gruden returned to the Oakland Coliseum to call the Dallas Cowboys-Raiders preseason game in August, he received a hero’s welcome from Raiders fans.
This weekend — while in town for Monday Night Football’s Chicago Bears-San Francisco 49ers game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — the former Raiders head coach (1998-2001) returned to the Coliseum again.
This time, he was a special guest of the team.
Gruden was invited to light “The Fire that Burns Brightest” torch before the Saints-Raiders game yesterday in honor of Al Davis, the legendary late owner of the Raiders who once hired Gruden to lead his proud franchise.
“It was emotional for me,” said Gruden. “I saw a lot of great friends: Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett, and being back in ‘The Black Hole’ brought back great memories.”
Speaking of Davis’ wife and son, who now own the team: “Carol and Mark Davis really gave me an opportunity to come back and reunite with Raider Nation. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I had a blast.”
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Looking ahead to tonight, the Bears versus 49ers game is one of ESPN’s best matchups of the season.
Both teams lead their respective divisions and the game could have NFC playoff implications.
It’s also the 35th MNF game from Candlestick Park, tops among all NFL stadiums in the 43-year history of the Monday Night series.
The telecast will begin with a special opening tease featuring Hall of Famers Dick Butkus of the Bears and Ronnie Lott of the 49ers. The Washington (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra will also perform a remixed version of the iconic Heavy Action MNF theme music.
This video from the Observer-Reporter in Western Pennsylvania highlights some of the local musicians who will be in the prime time spotlight tonight on ESPN.