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DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Danny McManus's return to Hamilton tonight will trigger a flood of memories, both good and bad.

The 41-year-old quarterback, now relinquished to a backup role with the Calgary Stampeders, experienced plenty of success and failure in his eight seasons in the Steeltown.

After joining the Tabbies from Edmonton prior to the 1998 season, McManus helped pilot an incredible turnaround that saw Hamilton transformed from a 2-16 team the year before into East champions.

Vanquished by the foot of Calgary's Mark McLoughlin in the final play of the '98 Grey Cup, McManus and Co., regrouped then returned the favour the following November, knocking off the Stamps in a Grey Cup rematch in just his second season with the club.

"It was disappointing (to lose in '98) but the accomplishments from Day 1 to that day were in leaps and bounds," McManus recalled.

"The guys responded and you could tell, walking off the field watching Calgary celebrate, that the guys wanted to get back there and we had that resolve in '99 to finish with a win."

That championship season McManus led the CFL in passing yards, TDs and was named the league's most outstanding player.

The last three seasons were not nearly as successful as the Ticats fumbled their way to losing records. McManus was eventually shipped to Edmonton, then Calgary during the off-season while the Tabbies have placed their faith in Jason Maas, another former Eskimos QB.

McManus was hardly alone in helping the revamped Tabbies, who had also acquired head coach Ron Lancaster, offensive co-ordinator R.D. Lancaster and all-star receiver Darren Flutie from Edmonton that off-season.

"They were pretty good, had a strong defence," McManus recalled about his arrival. "Offensively in 1997 they went through a bunch of injuries and quarterbacks too, so it was a situation where the defence was there, it was just a matter of recruiting as much offensive talent as we could.

"The guys who were there were eager for something new, eager for some direction and where to go, they jumped on it and accepted it and we were able to improve quickly.

"We had proved (in Edmonton) that the system worked, it was just a matter of getting the right people in there."

McManus and Flutie spent five years in Steeltown before Flutie retired after the 2002 season. During that time, Flutie caught 372 passes from McManus for 5,386 yards and 26 touchdowns. And in 2000, McManus set a CFL record by passing for more than 4,000 yards for a sixth straight season.

Today, the former Ticats stars will be reunited -- along with Ron Lancaster, who is now back on the sidelines for the Ticats -- as they're named as the fourth of nine nominees in the Greatest Quarterback-Receiver Connections in CFL History program.

And Flutie, who now works as a football analyst for CBC, gives as much credit to their natural chemistry as he does the hard time they spent getting to know one another's talents.

"Danny and I had a chemistry but it was the result of a lot of hard work," Flutie said. "We'd spent a lot of time together after practice working to the point where he knew what I was going to do and I knew what he was going to do."


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