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Former Niners Back John Henry Passes Away at Age 81

Running back John Henry Johnson, a member of the 49ers’ famed “Million Dollar Backfield” in the mid-1950s, died in Tracy on Friday at the age of 81, according to several relatives and close friends.

Family members said Johnson’s health had been in decline the past five years. Johnson’s pro playing career spanned 14 seasons, including 13 in the NFL and now-defunct American Football League, and culminated with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Johnson’s most productive seasons came with the Steelers in the ’60s when he twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He was also a member of the Detroit Lions title-winning team in 1957.

It was during his three seasons with the 49ers for which Johnson is best remembered, teaming with running backs Joe “The Jet” Perry and Hugh McElhenny and quarterback Y.A. Tittle from 1954-56 to comprise what many regard as the best backfield in history.

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