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Anthony Adams hasn’t been back to the Bay Area since his Chicago Bears played at Candlestick Park in 2009, three years after he left the 49ers, but he hasn’t forgotten the delights that it offers.

“Is that Hilton still right there on the corner (of Tasman Drive and Great America Parkway)?” he asked.

I confirmed that the hotel hasn’t gone anywhere. “Oh, man, they got the best Caesar salad ever! We used to have training camp there. We stayed there. And you know what, that’s where I started racking up my Hilton points. We’d stay there, what, two weeks, three weeks at a time, for what? Four years? Man, my points was through the roof!”

Adams had more questions. “They still got Togo’s out there?”

Yes, I said, right there on Great America Parkway, a few blocks from Levi’s Stadium — a structure Adams has never seen in person.

“Oh, man. I used to have to get all type of sub sandwiches for the team, my rookie year,” Adams said. “I’ll never forget Togo’s. Togo’s and Jamba Juice, and this place called Jonathan’s off of 101 that I used to have to go to, and Popeye’s chicken. Used to have to get so many buckets of chicken, and apple pie. And sometimes you were about to miss the flight because you were gonna get Popeye’s. And the vets don’t care that you’re about to miss the flight: ‘Did you get the Popeye’s?’”

This patter may sound familiar to anyone who has watched “The Great American Baking Show” on ABC (which Adams hosts with Ayesha Curry, Stephen’s wife), or certain episodes of “Ballers” on HBO, or the Big Ten Network or the content on chicagobears.com. He has a lot of irons in the fire these days. Most of us, though, know Anthony “Spice” Adams as the star of his own videos. In one goofy corner of the internet, the man is a legend.

“Spice?” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said, his face brightening. “Everyone watches Spice.”

You have probably either never seen a Spice Adams video or have seen dozens of them. He’s kind of his own subculture. If you are unfamiliar, you should probably skip over to spiceadams.com and click on the YOUTUBE button. There you will find such classics as “Family Members at the Barbecue” and “The ‘Get on the Line’ Coach.” All of them pitch-perfect.

Adams’ frivolity masks a difficult childhood. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in east Detroit, raised mostly by a single mother.

“In 1984 my father was arrested and charged with being an accomplice in an armed robbery,” Adams wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2016. “From the moment my mother received the midnight call from my father in jail, our lives changed dramatically. Money was already low, and in that instant our dreams of moving to a better neighborhood were dashed completely. After my dad was convicted and sentenced to 26 years, the only thing on our mind was survival.”

Humor was one way Adams and his mom, Connie Davis, survived. It was certainly how Anthony, an only child, made friends.

“I’d always try to put on a show so people would want to come back over to my house,” Adams said by phone from Chicago, where he lives with his wife and four children. “Because otherwise I’m gonna be there by myself. So I always wanted to do something silly or do something funny, so people would say, ‘Hey, let’s go over to Anthony’s house. I wonder what he’s gonna do today?’”

Adams had another thing working for him. He grew into a massive young man and was recruited as a football lineman. He played nose tackle at Penn State, and the 49ers drafted him in the second round in 2003. Adams played under Dennis Erickson for two years, under Mike Nolan for two more, then signed with the Bears as a free agent and spent his final five NFL seasons in Chicago.

Adams was a good defensive tackle, not a great one, who started 74 of 121 games in the league. He was listed as 6 feet, 300 pounds. Teammates called the first number an exaggeration, the second an underrepresentation.

If the wider world didn’t find out about Spice Adams until he was done playing football, teammates were constantly treated/subjected to his antics.

“He was always the guy like that in the locker room,” said 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, who played with Adams at Penn State and again with the Bears. “He was always the guy that was pulling jokes and pranks. He was just a happy-go-lucky big fellow.”

The Bears, like most NFL teams, had a walk-through every Friday, and Adams would mark the occasion by decorating his shoes in some outlandish way. Teammates came to anticipate his presentation.

“I think one year he came out with Christmas lights on his cleats,” Gould said.

“I don’t like people around me uptight,” Adams explained. “So if I walk into a locker room and it’s real quiet, like I can’t stand that. I got to have people around me that’s gonna act like a big kid. Just be me, just have fun. And it’s contagious a lot of times.”

Adams became a free agent in 2012, when the Bears released him. As he sought an NFL team, he began to chronicle the process with satirical little video clips. That July, with encouragement from fellow athletes, Adams posted a 5-minute, 17-second compilation to YouTube titled “Stuff NFL Free Agents Say.” It was funny but almost heartbreaking. It showed Adams anxiously checking his phone, asking his wife how to use the dishwasher and the clothes dryer, and raiding the pantry for Cinnamon Toast Crunch while insisting, “I’m gonna start this diet up next week, though.”

To his surprise, the video quickly received thousands of hits. In March of 2013, when it became apparent that the NFL wasn’t beating down his door, Adams retired from football. He marked the occasion by releasing a parody retirement video in which, duped by his agent, he makes the announcement in a nearly empty White Castle restaurant. That video has been watched more than 1.2 million times on YouTube.

A star was born. At first, Adams got his wife, Andenika, to do most of the filming. Now, he says, he handles most of it himself.

“When I reach the maximum number of eye rolls from my wife, I just do it myself,” he said. “I got myself a good tripod. And I’ve learned some tricks where you can film yourself and it looks like someone else did it.”

Adams edits the videos. It’s not his favorite part of the job. “Editing is like training camp,” he said. “It’s a necessary evil. You know you got to do the work. But it’s tedious. Man, it’s tedious.”

Adams is prodigious and immensely popular. He has roughly 812,000 followers on Facebook, 522,000 on Instagram and 97,000 on Twitter, as well as 77,000 YouTube subscribers. Certainly, a small but significant slice of them are athletes.

Adams has a way of cutting through the pain and the anxiety and the boredom of professional football, and getting right to the humor. Reporters aren’t allowed in NFL locker rooms prior to games, but I just KNOW Adams is 100 percent accurate in his video “Different Speeches in the Locker Room,” featuring such archetypes as The Preacher, The Corny Team Captain No One Voted For and The Guy Who Mixes Up Phrases: “We like a pack of wild geese, man. When the geese form that V shape, you only as strong as, as the chain of the weakest… of the link… for the early bird.”

“I like the video he posted about the OTAs,” 49ers defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said, referring to offseason team workouts. “He talked about how the vets are during the meetings. It’s something I felt like a lot of us think is probably more funny, because we’re actually in the meetings. And I always wonder how people on the outside can look at it and respect the video.”

But they do. And, of course, Adams doesn’t stick to sports for his clowning. He has capped on baggage handlers, clubbers and guys using hair dye. Some of his most popular clips are his portrayals of “oldheads” — overdressed older black dudes, brimming with swagger, giant Bluetooth devices in their ears.

Adams’ humor can be slapstick. Just as often, what lands the joke is his impeccable timing or a subtle shift in facial expression.

One thing I love about Adams’ videos is the unbridled celebration of his big, jiggly body. He has developed a character called Cream Biggums, a would-be hoops star, and half the gag is watching Adams move (with surprising grace) in his too-tight basketball uniform and goggles. I asked him if he has always felt so comfortable with his body.

“Oh, no, no, no!” he said. “That was my mom that brought it out.”

Adams said that when he was in elementary school, a couple of older cousins came to stay with him and his mother. They were older boys, like 15 and 18. They’d all play basketball and get sweaty, and afterward the cousins would always walk around with their shirts off. Anthony’s mom asked him why he didn’t bare some skin, too. He tried it one time, got an earful of crap and delivered it right back. Never again was he embarrassed by his body.

“Now it’s gone further,” Adams said. “Because if I get one ab at the gym, everyone’s gonna notice. I wear all that spandex, and they can see if I’ve been working out too much.”

Thank you, Spice. Thanks for poking fun at yourself and making me laugh and eternally avoiding that one ab. You can start the diet next week.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5253 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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