Mariucci, Lions lose in coach's return to San Francisco

Updated: October 5, 2003, 9:38 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Mariucci spoke nonstop about his new team and its troubles, barely taking a breath for about 10 minutes.

"It was a hard-hitting game on both sides. ... We've got to find ways to take better care of the football. ... The bye comes at a good time. We've got some nicks."

Then, finally, Detroit's coach was forced to reflect on how it felt to be back in San Francisco for the first time since the 49ers fired him in January. Dressed in a royal blue Lions polo shirt and black slacks, the exuberant Mariucci showed little sadness if he indeed was experiencing any.

Mariucci was swarmed on the field by several former players anxious to greet him after the Lions' 24-17 loss, their 19th straight road defeat.

"They are doing a heck of a job," said Mariucci, who's back home in Michigan after six tumultuous seasons with the Niners. "It was good to see them. It was little different to be on the other side of the field. ... Right away I said to my team last week that the main thing is the football game. Everything else we tried to minimize as much as we could."

Everyone seemed happy when this day was over. "Mooch" got his hugs and a friendly reunion, but was ready to start getting his 1-4 Lions back on track during their bye week before hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 19.

Mariucci paced the sidelines, his pants flapping in the wind known to haunt Candlestick Park -- "It swirled," he said.

Before the game, 49ers running backs Garrison Hearst and Fred Beasley posed for a photo with Mariucci and Tom Rathman, the Lions' running backs coach who followed Mariucci to Detroit. Late in the second half, Hearst and Beasley both clowned with their former coaches after being tackled near the Detroit sideline.

"As a team, you want to win it for the coaches," Detroit running back Olandis Gary said. "They have a history here. But we're 1-4 right now. We need victories. We don't need moral victories."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index