"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
Deion Sanders hit San Francisco like a spiraling comet in 1994 as he played for both the 49ers and San Francisco Giants in the space of one mercurial year.
In his only season with the 49ers, Sanders picked off six passes, returning them for an NFL-best 303 yards and three touchdowns. Two interceptions were returned 90 yards or more for scores. Sanders proved he was worth the one-year investment by putting on a show in his first start with the 49ers.
Neon Deion showed off his coverage skills early in the game by batting down two passes.
Late in the fourth quarter, San Francisco was clinging to a 17-13 lead, but the Saints were in striking range. With the ball at the 49ers 42 yard line, Saints quarterback Jim Everett fired a pass in the direction of wide receiver Michael Haynes. Before you could say zoom, Sanders picked it off and flew down the sideline 74 yards to the end zone.
"He's faster than lightning,'' said Saints tight end Irv Smith, who watched Deion zip past him at warp speed. "There's no stopping him when he gets in the open field."
49ers defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes noted that Sanders was more than a talented athlete.
"He's a difference maker. Everyone knew we were getting probably the best cover man in football," said Rhodes. "What we didn't realize was that he had a tremendous work ethic. He did everything we asked him to do. He studied hard and learned the coverages. That attitude rubbed off on the other guys."
Sanders earned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1994 and helped solidify the 49ers defense for an NFL title run. At Super Bowl XXIX, Deion recorded another interception in the 49ers 49–26 victory over San Diego.
"Deion was phenomenal that season," recalled George Seifert, the 49ers head coach in 1994. "He was the definition of a shutdown corner. His presence helped solidify our defense. Quarterbacks were reluctant to throw his way."
Just five months after the 49ers Super Bowl victory parade, MLB's Cincinnati Reds traded Sanders to the Giants. By mid-July, he was playing centerfield at Candlestick Park alongside Barry Bonds. Deion batted .285 with five home runs in 214 at bats during his one season with the Giants.
Sanders was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.