ATLANTA Sunday's come-from-behind 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game had some 49ers dancing wildly in the middle of their Georgia Dome locker room and left others quietly wrestling with their emotions.
Jed York, the young owner whose tenure has corresponded with the team's turnaround, discreetly walked through the room, shaking hands along the way.
Asked how he handled the tug and pull of a game in which Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 start, York's eyes moistened.
"Down 17-0, my son was with me. Picked him up," he said, his voice trailing off for a few seconds. " Held him for our first touchdown, and I knew we were going to win.
"That's what it's about," York continued. "It's about family, and I think of this as a family."
It will continue to be a family affair in New Orleans on Feb. 3, when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lines up his team against the Baltimore Ravens, coached by his brother, John Harbaugh.
Family was the mantra of the team's former owner, and York's uncle, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., with whom York is close.
San Francisco's trip to New Orleans is the franchise's first Super Bowl berth since DeBartolo relinquished control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo-York, and her husband, John York. DeBartolo, of course, won five Super Bowls with the 49ers, and he's a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Players who had been in the league the longest seemed to have the hardest time reconciling what had happened against the Falcons.
Running back Frank Gore, who arrived in 2005 and had played on non-winning teams until 2010, had to cut off his interview.
"I'm done," he said to a half dozen cameramen spread around him. Still in uniform even though the game handed ended an hour earlier, Gore stared straight ahead for several more minutes.
Defensive end Justin Smith also was part of those bad 49ers squads and a 2-12 team in Cincinnati a year after he entered the league in 2001. Smith has been one of the 49ers' emotional tone setters.
Sunday, he was struggling between celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl and reminding himself there's still work to be done.
"Definitely, toward the end of my career, getting a win like this," Smith said. "It's an awesome feeling. It's unbelievable. You've got to win it, or else it's all for nothing. So the pressure's really on us."