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NFL

Super Bowl run 'a little bittersweet' for 49ers QB

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 5:56 p.m.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alex Smith ran off the field at Candlestick Park two weeks ago to a standing ovation and cheers from the sellout crowd, not much different from the reception last January when he took the San Francisco 49ers oh so close to a Super Bowl.

Now relegated to a backup role with the NFC champions, Smith's trip to the Big Easy this week leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl against Baltimore is hardly how he envisioned it.

Smith expected to be under center chasing the franchise's sixth championship, not watching strong-armed second-year pro Colin Kaepernick direct the offense against the Ravens.

“I think a lot's being made of that. For one, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet,” Smith said.

As he has done during each such trying time in an up-and-down career full of them, Smith has handled the change with class and the shared team-first attitude that is a big reason his club made it this far. And Smith, the No. 1 pick from the 2005 draft out of Utah, left no doubt that he would appreciate and relish the rare opportunity before him.

“Absolutely, yes, very much so,” Smith said of enjoying this experience despite midseason demotion.

Smith acknowledged when he lost the job to Kaepernick in November he had done nothing wrong but get hurt. Not only had he completed 26 of his previous 28 passes — 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and a 157.1 passer rating in a “Monday Night Football” win on Oct. 29 at Arizona — but Smith earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after that victory.

He then suffered a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. He sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter.

After that, coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with the “hot hand,” as he regularly put it.

The eighth-year quarterback is already fielding questions about how it feels not being on the field for the biggest moment in a player's career.

“If you can't be happy for them, then something's wrong with you,” Smith said of his teammates.

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