*Former NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice will make his professional golf debut at a Nationwide Tour event in California today, turning a lifelong passion into reality.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime here,” Rice told the Associated Press. “You know I’m a competitor. I don’t want to go out there and have those players who are playing on the Nationwide Tour think this is a publicity stunt for attention. It’s not. … I have the opportunity to go out and prove to everybody I can play golf.”

Rice, 47, said he used to wake up at 4 a.m. so he could get to the driving range and hit golf balls before he was due at work with the San Francisco 49ers for 8:30 a.m. meetings. He’d return to the range after football practice.

“I got addicted to the game. I have so much passion for it,” said Rice, who has been golfing for more than 20 years and has been a regular in pro-ams. His best round is 68.

Rice would be eligible for prize money if he makes the 36-hole cut at the Fresh Express Classic at 7,188-yard, par-71 TPC Stonebrae. The Nationwide Tour works under the umbrella of the PGA Tour.

“These guys are really good golfers,” Rice said. “They are one step below the PGA and a lot of these guys are going to go on and be part of the PGA. To line up against these guys, I’m honored. … I’d love to make this cut in my debut.”

Rice, who will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, will also serve as host of today’s 156-player tournament, with his foundation receiving proceeds.