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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 15:17 GMT
Roaring forties
By Mark Barden

NFL legend Jerry Rice reached the Super Bowl this year
Jerry Rice is still playing at 40

As Michael Jordan turns 40, still playing a starring role for the Washington Wizards, he is in good company.

Here are four other examples of golden oldies still plying their trades at the highest level in American sport.



NFL: Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice's place in gridiron's Hall of Fame is ready and waiting - the 40-year-old just needs to stop playing first.

Undoubtedly, the greatest wide receiver the game has ever seen, some would argue he is the best in any position.

Plenty of pundits thought Rice was wrong to prolong his golden career after leaving San Francisco in 2000 by joining local rivals Oakland.

But he proved them wrong by helping the Raiders to their first Super Bowl since 1984 this year, although they were upset 48-21 by Tampa Bay.

Rice, has indicated that he wants to play on, but he has earned the right to hang up his helmet any time he wants.

The statistics speak for themselves, with 11 NFL and 10 Super Bowl records to his name.

One night in Denver last November saw him become the first player to score 200 touchdowns.

In the same game, he also surpassed NFL legend Walton Payton's record for all-pupose yardage of 21,204.

The four-time Super Bowl winner finished the season with 1,211 receiving yards and seven TDs - not bad for an 'old' man.


MLB: Roger Clemens

Playing past 40 is not such a rarity in baseball, but perhaps the best of those who have and are still in action is 'The Rocket'.

Roger Clemens
Clemens achieved his World Series dream with the Yankees
Although not as intimidating as he once was, Clemens' blend of pace and guile still commands respect throughout the major leagues.

After making his MLB debut in 1984, he had to wait until 1999 for his first World Series ring, winning with the Yankees - and again in 2000.

A six-time Cy Young Award-winner, he is currently third on the all-time strikeouts list, and has had six 20-win seasons.

Clemens shares the major league record for most strikeouts in a game (20), but is the only man to do it twice - 10 years apart, in 1986 and 1996.

The 6ft 4in right-hander has the sixth-best ERA among active pitchers, with the third-best current win-loss percentage.

Having earned well over $20m in the last two years alone, Clemens certainly doesn't need to play on.

But the prospect of a third Fall Classic triumph is keeping him on the mound.


NBA: John Stockton

While Michael Jordan attracts all the attention in his final season, Stockton quietly continues to go about his business.

The veteran Utah guard, one half of a hugely successful partnership with power forward Karl Malone, has never liked the limelight.

But the 40-year-old's awesome career makes it impossible for him to avoid the plaudits that he so richly deserves.

Now in his 19th year with the Jazz - itself an NBA single franchise record - Stockton leads the all-time lists in assists and steals.

Only two players - Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - have played more games than the 10-time All-Star selection.

Widely regarded as the best passer the NBA has ever seen, Stockton has won divisional and conference titles with the Jazz.

But he had the misfortune to come up against Michael Jordan in his second coming with Chicago in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals.

Stockton may end up being the best guard to never win the game's ultimate prize.


NHL: Chris Chelios and Mark Messier

The NHL offers up its own veterans, with Messier and Chelios still in action past 40.

Mark Messier
Messier: Still going strong
New York Rangers centre Messier, 42, is in his 24th NHL season and has no less than six Stanley Cup wins to his name.

Five came with Edmonton between 1984 and 1990, and he added another in his first spell with the Rangers in 1994.

Now in his 20th season, the 41-year-old Chelios won his first Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986 and his second with Detroit in 2002.

In between, Chelios claimed three Norris Trophy wins as the NHL's best defenceman, in 1989, 1994 and 1996.

Fast approaching their 40s are future Hall of Famers such as Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux (37) and Chelios's fellow Red Wing Brett Hull (39) - the latter hit his 700th goal in February 2003.

But ice hockey's most famous veteran will continue to be the legendary Gordie Howe.

The best all-round player ever to take to the ice, "Mr Hockey", finally retired in 1980 aged 52 after an amazing career spanning 32 pro seasons and numerous records.





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