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'Joe Cool' hawks gin in Philly, but not autographs

Arguably greatest quarterback in NFL history appeared at Center City liquor store.

Joe Montana was in town Thursday night signing bottles at the PLCB store at 12th & Chestnut. The four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback owns Aviation Gin, which bills itself as the cocktail-inspired American gin.

Obviously, having grown up worshipping at the Joe Montana altar, I was there. Unfortunately for me, the event ran like an assembly line.

Montana strutted out, posed 30 seconds for the cameras, then sat down and inked bottles of his hooch. Around 150 people crammed inside the store, all wide-eyed, as they waited to embrace their hero. I decided not to jump in line, instead observing from the press area.

Montana was cordial and smiled, but instructed his fans -- many armed with No. 16 jerseys and 49ers memorabilia -- that he was only signing bottles of Aviation.

When one man on crutches tried to sit next to Montana for a picture, he was told he must stay on the other side of the table. He got his photo, then limped away.

All in all, it was what I've come to expect from these celebrity meet-and-greets. (Terrell Owens did it the same way back in 2004 when he was promoting his book).

Still, it was slightly disappointing -- especially for someone who witnessed first-hand the epic, fourth-quarter comeback he orchestrated against the Eagles at the Vet in 1989 -- not to have been able to talk with the man that helped nurture my love for football.

Perhaps, another time. Or, if Montana's public relations staff is reading this, drop me an e-mail.

Montana's career

A look back at Montana’s first career, before he became a gin mill owner:

Won three Super Bowl MVPS in four Super Bowl victories and tossed 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions on the biggest stage.

Threw for 40,551 yards during his 14 seasons (not counting 1991 when he didn’t play any games and 1992 when he only played a portion of one game)

Started the 1977 college season as Notre Dame University’s third-string quarterback. In the third game of the season, he came in during the third quarter after the first two quarterbacks’ inefficiency and injury to lead the Fighting Irish to a comback victory.

Born in New Eagle, Washington County, in western Pennsylvania, then grew up in the nearby city of Monongahela, a coal mining town south of Pittsburgh.

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