SAN FRANCISCO -- Terrell Owens says he likes to wear his emotions on his sleeve. But for a short time on Jan. 3, 1999, he wore them on Steve Mariucci's shoulder.

Owens celebrated the greatest catch of his career by finding Mariucci on the sideline, wrapping his coach in a bearhug -- and bawling his eyes out.

"He lost it. He absolutely lost it. I remember he was sobbing on my shoulder," Mariucci said in a recent phone interview. "It was kind of a Kodak moment.

"Eventually I said, 'Get a hold of yourself, will ya!' "

Owens got a hold of things that day just in time. With three seconds left in a drop-filled debacle, he hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young to give the 49ers a 30-27 victory over Green Bay in an NFC wild-card game.

The Catch II, as it came to be known, ranks No. 2 in our countdown of the 49ers' most unforgettable moments at Candlestick Park.

Owens prefers a different nickname for his signature play. He calls it "The Redemption Catch."

"Well, I mean, it was a rough day," Owens, now 40, said during a November visit to Candlestick. "I remember dropped balls here and there. ... You're just trying to do whatever you can to redeem yourself for those mistakes."

As with Dwight Clark's original, the drama behind the "The Catch II" extended deeper than the final play. In both cases, victory represented a breakthrough against a dreaded playoff nemesis.

Clark had the Cowboys. Owens has the Packers, who had beaten the 49ers five consecutive times and had killed their Super Bowl hopes for three years running.

Green Bay looked poised to do it again, taking a 27-23 lead on the first play after the two-minute warning. Quarterback Brett Favre hit Antonio Freeman for a 15-yard touchdown pass, and it was so quiet at Candlestick Park that you could hear a pass drop.

Owens had flubbed four passes thrown his way, including one in which he was wide open in the end zone and lost the ball in the sun. The third-year wide receiver had a catch on the 49ers' first series, but he fumbled it away to set up the Packers' first score.

These weren't tough grabs. Owens had the yips.

As teammate Jerry Rice recalled: "The worst thing is when you're dropping a lot of footballs during the game and you just can't get it going. You're like, 'Oh, my God. Why is this happening to me?'

"I just kept telling him, 'Keep working hard.' Because I think when receivers are going through a situation like that, we keep lifting each other up. You just keep saying: 'It's going to happen.' "

With time for one last gasp, the 49ers started the drive at their 24-yard line with 1:50 to play. And they kept the drive going thanks to a break from the officiating crew.

Rice appeared to fumble the ball around midfield with 39 seconds remaining, and Packers linebacker Bernardo Harris recovered what he thought was a game-clinching turnover.

But line judge Jeff Bergman ruled that Rice hadn't lost control of the ball, and field judge Kevin Mack declined to overrule him. These were in the days before such plays were subject to video review.

Asked about the play now, Rice laughs.

"I still have people that say, 'Hey, that should have been a fumble,' " he said, gleefully.

"You know what? They need to move on with their lives. Come on. I'm Jerry Rice! (The officials) are going to give me that. Get over it! Move on!"

Given a reprieve by the controversial call, the 49ers capitalized. Facing a third-and-3 from the 25-yard line, Mariucci dialed up a play called "3 Jets All Go." It called for Rice and backup running back Chuck Levy to line up on the left, with J.J. Stokes split to the right and Owens lined up in the right slot. Terry Kirby ran his pattern out of the backfield.

And then the darn thing nearly unraveled at the snap. Young lost his footing and nearly tumbled to the turf while dropping back to pass.

"The interesting thing to me, when you look at it: Steve Young was not in shotgun formation," Mariucci said. "That would be unheard of (now), and it was pretty much unheard of then because everybody else used the shotgun except for us.

"Sure enough, he stumbled. ... Football freaks will probably watch that clip and say, 'Why in the world was he under center?' "

Young said after the game that his near fall might have helped him disappear from the defense for a split second. That bought him enough time to look outside before scanning the middle of the field to find Owens.

And then he launched an arcing pass toward the red jersey amid a sea of green and gold. Owens had a Packer to the left of him, a Packer to the right, and two more chasing him from behind.

"And Steve put the ball right where it had to be," Owens said.

The receiver held on.

And then he let go.

The man who would later be known for outlandish planned touchdown celebrations kept it human and spontaneous this time, weeping for all to see as he embraced his coach.

"That was me being a passionate player," Owens said, looking back. "I knew what I had done over the course of the offseason to be that 'other player' along with Jerry and J.J., to complement those guys.

"I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and that's what I did. It was going to be a great disappointment to let them down."

As is often the case with sequels, this one did not live up to the original. Instead of paving the way to a Super Bowl victory, "The Catch II" merely led to a 20-18 loss to Atlanta the following week.

Still, on this day, the game was good to the last catch.

"I had never heard the crowd explode like it did," Mariucci said. "I remember jumping. It was like I was levitated. ... It was just pandemonium."

Marcus Thompson contributed to this report. Contact Daniel Brown at dbrown@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercBrownie.

Candlestick Moments
In honor of the 49ers' final season at Candlestick Park, we count down the team's Most Unforgettable Moments there. Stories will run periodically until Dec. 23, the last regular-season game at the place the 49ers have called home since 1971. The 10 Most Unforgettable Moments -- among them a few that 49ers fans can't forget, no matter how hard they try -- were voted on by our sports staff. You can vote at mercurynews.com/49ers. The fan vote will be revealed before the final game.