SANTA CLARA — Running like mad, Ted Ginn Jr. almost raised the ball in the air before the goal line to start celebrating a touchdown on his 102-yard kickoff return.
He thought twice, then tucked it in safely at his right side. Ginn had looked up at the big screen and saw a chasing defender. No way he was risking something going wrong.
Not after his turbulent week.
Ahead of the season opener, Ginn took a hefty pay cut and lost his starting job in the receiving corps to newcomer Braylon Edwards.
What a tough few days for the fifth-year pro before he returned two kicks for touchdowns in a 59-second span to seal San Francisco's season-opening 33-17 victory over Seattle.
The 49ers got their money's worth and then some from the veteran wideout and special teams star against the defending NFC West champion Seahawks. Ginn gave the 49ers their first game in franchise history with a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns.
“I'm a team player. It's not always about money,” Ginn said. “You come in, you play the game, and as you play the game, good things should happen for you.”
It hasn't always been that way for Ginn, however.
Booed by Dolphins fans from the day he was drafted out of Ohio State, the criticism he received in South Florida was relentless. Even for a guy who scored on kickoff returns of 100 and 101 yards in the same quarter of a game against the New York Jets in November 2009. He became the first player with two kickoff returns of at least 100 yards in the same game.
The 49ers got quite a glimpse — make that two — of Ginn's explosive, game-breaking ability Sunday. Even at age 26, he shows off the speed and first step that made him a national hurdle champion in high school.
“Career day, record-setting day by Ted Ginn,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Phenomenal performance by Teddy.”
And to think Harbaugh nearly went with somebody else back deep in the return game. The first-year coach ultimately decided to go with Ginn because of “his experience more than anything else.”