Brett Favre had a 20-year career that took 46 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors nine seconds to sign off on. And that seemed about eight seconds too long for the NFL's ultimate gunslinging ironman.

The journey that began quietly in Atlanta, flourished in Green Bay, detoured through the Big Apple and ended in Purple needed no embellishment from 46 media members who otherwise spent 8 hours, 49 minutes discussing the Class of 2016. Favre's highlights, too many to count, simply spoke for themselves.

Most of those moments, of course, came during 16 seasons as a Packer tormenting the Vikings. But wait, Vikings fans. According to the legendary quarterback himself, there are days when he considers the best moment of them all to have come as a Viking when journeyman Greg Lewis caught perhaps the most improbable of Favre's 552 career touchdown passes to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the final two seconds on Sept. 27, 2009.

"That play ranks No. 1 some days and No. 2 or 3 on others," wrote Favre, 46, in an e-mail this week. "Considering where I was in my career and expectation level at that time, I 'needed to deliver.' "

Brad Childress, Vikings coach at the time, said last week that the entire game-winning drive against the 49ers could be shown to represent Favre's greatness when he's enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday night.

"First of all, Favre, in his inimitable way, had doctored up some of our plays," Childress said with a chuckle, well aware of the public's perception that he and Favre spent that magical season trying to strangle each other for control of the offense.

"He was changing the routes. Bev [offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell] and I talked. And Brett kept completing them, so we didn't say much. Then it was a great play by Brett and Greg. Amazing. It kind of set the tempo for the whole season. You said to yourself, 'This is going to be something special.' "

The Vikings started that season with victories at Cleveland and at Detroit. Heading to the Metrodome to face the 49ers in Favre's first home game as a Viking, the team was 2-0 mainly because of its defense and a third-year running back named Adrian Peterson. The Vikings knew Favre was healthy, but the public hadn't seen enough to quell concerns that offseason biceps surgery had robbed Favre of some arm strength as he approached his 40th birthday.

Those concerns were laid to rest the moment Favre took the field trailing the 49ers 24-20 with 1 minute, 29 seconds left. Favre needed to cover 80 yards with no timeouts.

"We had the lead, but I just knew it wasn't safe with Brett," said Vikings backup Shaun Hill, who was San Francisco's starting quarterback that day. "Anything's possible with Brett. So I just stood there dumbfounded, really."

Favre had thought the game essentially was over when the Vikings turned the ball over on downs with 1:49 left. But the defense forced a quick three-and-out as the 49ers finished the day going 0-for-11 on third-down conversion attempts.

The defensive stand cost Childress all of his timeouts. But Favre had posted 42 fourth-quarter comebacks, eight of which came against the Vikings.

"I was on the sidelines saying, 'Be Brett, be Brett, be Brett,' " defensive end Jared Allen said.

Favre would complete five of nine passes, two of the incompletions being spikes to stop the clock. There was a 12-yard pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, a 9-yarder to receiver Sidney Rice and a 5-yarder to receiver Percy Harvin on third-and-one.

"You never know with a player like that, who is a Hall of Famer, but at what point is he going to fall off the edge and not be able to play at a high level?" Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. "For that one year, whatever energy Brett had, it was special. In my mind, he was the MVP that season."

Favre spiked the ball at the Vikings 46 with 40 seconds left. After an incompletion, he found Harvin, a rookie, for 15 yards on third-and-10. Another spike with 16 seconds left was followed by a 7-yard sideline completion to Bernard Berrian to stop the clock with 12 seconds and 32 yards to go.

Ideally, the plan was to go four wide with Berrian wide left, Harvin in the left slot, Shiancoe in the right slot and Rice wide right.

"But Percy was tired and needed to come out," said Vikings receivers coach George Stewart, who's still with the team. "Percy goes so hard and his energy level bottoms out."

Stewart had authority to substitute freely. Even with 12 seconds left. Lewis had been with the team only three weeks and hadn't played a snap the entire game.

"I said, 'Greg, go in for Percy,' " Stewart said. "Bev was saying, 'You got to put Percy in.' But Percy had to come out."

Then, as Lewis put it, "Brett came into the huddle and said, 'We're going to get this done.' " Favre didn't even know Harvin was out.

"I was so exhausted," Favre said in his e-mail. "Honestly, I didn't know Greg was in the game."

By this time, Favre had taken full command of the play-calling and the route assignments. Earlier in the drive, he wanted shorter, quicker routes. At the end, he didn't want all four receivers clogging the end zone with their defenders.

"I didn't change any plays until we crossed the 50," Favre said. "Once we got in their territory and had a reasonable amount of time, my thinking was get close enough to do exactly what I did, and that was be close enough to throw a dart in the end zone. So I gave a route that would get us just enough each time based on what defense they were in."

Favre had three of his targets stop short of the goal line and his left slot receiver, Lewis, work to the back of the end zone. For the play to work, Favre would need to buy some time scrambling to his right.

Favre eluded tackle Justin Smith, but linebacker Manny Lawson was charging hard from behind.

"What do I remember?" asked Vikings guard Alex Boone, a 49ers rookie in 2009. "I remember how close Manny's hand was to the ball. And then Manny murdered Brett and I'm thinking, 'This ball isn't going anywhere.' "

Instead, the throw was a laser that traveled 47 yards through the air to Lewis on the last plastic blade of grass in the end zone. With two defenders near him, Lewis caught the ball, got his left foot down and managed to drag his right foot inbounds as he came down.

"Greg is slue-footed; his feet always point out," Stewart said. "I always teased him and said if he had normal feet instead of a duck's feet, he probably would have come down out of bounds."

It would be the only touchdown pass Lewis would catch from Favre.

"One of the greatest clutch catches of all time," Favre said in his e-mail. "And that goes for any receiver!!"

Favre would go on that season to post career highs for completion percentage (68.4) and passer rating (107.2). He'd notch 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, a career low as a starter. The Vikings went 12-4, 9-0 at home, beat the Packers twice, won the division and a playoff game that remains their most recent postseason victory.

The dream, of course, would die in the NFC Championship Game and become a nightmare in 2010. But the magical 2009 season is why the jerseys of two hated rivals now hang together in Favre's Hall of Fame locker.

"I enjoyed him immensely that year," said Childress, who accepted Favre's invitation to be one of his guests in Canton. "I think everybody did."