Franco Harris dies at 72, days before 50th anniversary of ‘Immaculate Reception’

On the week of the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” professional football’s greatest play in league history, the playmaker has died.

Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Famer, died overnight, his son told the Associated Press. He was 72.

The cause of his death was not immediately known.

Condolences from sports figures, celebrities and politicians began pouring in when news of Harris’ passing broke, including from Sen. Jay Costa, who said Harris was a family friend.

>>> Football community, fans, fellow Pittsburgh Steelers pay tribute to Franco Harris after his death

In the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Harris during the Steelers press conference Tuesday.

“He’s just a special man. Forget the player. Obviously, I never knew the player. I know the man and just what an awesome representation of this organization, this community, a guy that embraces all the responsibility that comes with being him,” Tomlin said, in part.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced several events are planned Friday to celebrate the anniversary. Harris’ No. 32 was to be retired as part of the upcoming celebrations, Channel 11 sports partner SteelersNow.com reports.

Harris began his pro football career as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No.1 pick. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

The flag at the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be flown at half-staff in his honor, according to a news release from the organization.