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49ers' Smith continues to haunt opposing offenses

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 11:52 p.m.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Greedy or not, Aldon Smith wants all the defensive accolades he can get.

It's hard to argue with the statistics he's putting up so far for the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith likes it that way. After missing out on the NFL's award for top defensive rookie last season, he is determined to make up for it. And San Francisco's high-flying outside linebacker hopes to leave little to chance this time.

He is striving to be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year and sacks leader in his second professional season.

Smith recorded 5 12 sacks for the NFC West-leading Niners (7-2-1) in Monday night's 32-7 rout of the Bears to give him a league-best 15 on the year — already topping the franchise-record and rookie-leading 14 he produced in 2011.

The honors are coming in already, with Smith's prime-time performance to shut down Bears backup Jason Campbell earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Next up: Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (5-5) on Sunday at the Superdome.

“It means a lot. It's humbling,” Smith said of the recognition. “I was just excited about how it went.”

Especially after official scorers reviewed film several minutes after the game ended and gave him one more half-sack. Denver's Von Miller, who beat out Smith for Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, is second with 13 sacks, and Houston's J.J. Watt sits third with 11 12.

Smith has no qualms saying publicly how he would like to top them both, along with everybody else.

“Yeah, most definitely, because I compete hard,” he said. “I feel like everybody competes hard. There are so many people who are playing this game at an incredible level right now — Von, J.J., everybody, even the guys on our team — to be at the top of that list, that's cool.”

The 23-year-old Smith, a menacing physical presence at 6-foot-4 and 258 pounds, is already drawing comparisons to some of the greats to play his position. Like late Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.

“He reminds me of Derrick Thomas,” Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said. “Watching him, with his arm length and the way he can slither, his great get-off. I'm a great fan of Derrick. And that's who Aldon reminds me of. So I think that's one of the best compliments I can give him.”

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