When Joe Montana was picked in the third round of the 1979 draft by the San Francisco 49ers, no one would have predicted that the injury-prone Notre Dame grad would lead the team to four Super Bowls in the 1980s. But Montana had a way of defying the conventional wisdom.

Known as the "Comeback Kid" for his ability to rally his team when they were behind, Montana led the 49ers to victory 26 times when the team was losing in the 4th quarter, regardless of whether it was a mid-season game or Super Bowl XXIII—in that storied contest, Montana moved his team 92 yards for a touchdown with just 34 seconds left on the clock.

Montana’s career with the 49ers was characterized by successive seasons of brilliance, punctuated by years when he was plagued by problems on and off the field. After a dazzling 1981, which included a legendary come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game and an MVP award for his part in the team’s win against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI, Montana’s stats sank in 1982 when NFL players went out on strike.

Montana threw more than 25 touchdown passes in each of the 1983, 1984, and 1985 seasons, but back surgery put him out of commission for almost half of 1986. Four more amazing years followed from 1987-1990, but an elbow injury late in the 1990 season sidelined him for all of 1991 and all but one game in 1992.

In 1993 he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, for whom he played two seasons before announcing his retirement in 1995. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Normally rookie cards are issued at the beginning of a player’s second season, but Topps waited until 1981 to print Montana’s, which is probably his most collectible football card. Contemporary cards such as Donruss limited edition autograph cards and cards with swatches of jersey material from Montana’s 49ers and Chiefs uniforms are also in demand. And autographed footballs, helmets, and jerseys remain perennial favorites.

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