He played 12 seasons that included a Super Bowl championship and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary says he's gotten over the mixed emotions that came with facing his former team, but "Samurai Mike" said coaching against the Bears is still special.
"The Bears will always be a team that I love," said Singletary, who 3-5 team hosts the 4-4 Bears Thursday night. "So many friends, family and memories. But at the same time I also know that the first time I (faced) the Bears, when I first got to San Francisco, coming to Soldier Field and being in all of the excitement, it was a bit overwhelming."
As the assistant head coach in 2005 and '06, Singletary and the 49ers lost 17-9 and then 41-10. Last season he replaced Mike Nolan after seven games on an interim basis and guided the 49ers to a 5-4 record, earning the full-time job.
"I'm glad that this is not the first time I'm playing the Bears because that would be tough," said the 10-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker. "Now that I have played them a couple times, it's just a matter of going out there and competing against a good football team and trying to do the best I can."
Nose tackle Anthony Adams is the only Bears player with ties to Singletary, having spent 2005 and '06 with the Niners, playing in 30 games and starting 21.
"It will be big for him," Adams said. "He was always telling us how the Niners would always find a way to beat (the Bears). He said it always seemed like Joe Montana and them just had his number."
Singletary's Bears played the 49ers nine times, losing six of them, including both playoff meetings, the NFC championship games in 1984 and '88.
"Now, it's kind of different, but he accepted the challenge," Adams said. "He's a great man. He led our bible studies. He's a great motivator and a great speaker. I think the world of him, and I can't wait to see him."
Singletary's 8-9 record as a head coach isn't special at first glance, until you consider that the franchise was 20-51 in the 4 1/2 years before he took over. The turnaround is no surprise to Adams.
"He's always been grooming himself to be a head coach," Adams said. "That was always one of his dreams, and I'm happy to see that his dream finally came true."
But not before Singletary weeded out an undesirable element that he called "guys he couldn't win with." He even banished Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis to the locker room during his debut last season as the interim head coach.
"He's a passionate guy," Adams said. "He's an emotional guy. You probably all know that. Samurai right? Samurai Mike, it came out then."
But there's also the Singletary who remains optimistic despite the Niners' current four-game losing streak, which has tempered enthusiasm after a 3-1 start. Singletary disagreed when it was mentioned that his team has been struggling of late.
"Well, I wouldn't say struggle," he said. "It depends on the perspective. I just think that sometimes you go through growing pains, sometimes you have to deal with some of the setbacks. The most important thing is how you respond, so we will respond positively going forward, and the end of a matter is always better than the beginning."
A once-great franchise that has suffered through six straight losing seasons hopes Singletary is right.