Matt Maiocco

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Alex Smith returned to the 49ers this season on a one-year deal worth 4 million. However, the contract also included incentives that rewarded him an additional 2.5 million.

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For Alex Smith and Frank Gore, who arrived with the 49ers in 2005, followed by Vernon Davis, beating the Saints erases some bitter memories. More: Winning drive play-by-play Postgame video

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Where did the 49ers' biggest play in a decade come from? The 14-yard strike from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis that beat the Saints is part of history. More: Winning drive play-by-play Postgame video

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Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis with nine seconds left to propel San Francisco to the NFC Championship game with a 36-32 win over the Saints.

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Tight end Delanie Walker, who has yet to be cleared to resume playing after sustaining a fractured jaw on Dec. 24, is among the 49ers' seven inactive players for Saturday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

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The excitement has returned to Bay Area, and nobody has sensed that more than a former 49ers standout with local roots. "It's been tremendous, to be honest," said former 49ers tight end Brent Jones on Saturday.

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A year ago, all Alex Smith wanted was a fresh start. He got it with a new 49ers coach. Now Smith can rewrite history.

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With everyone talking about Saints' TE Jimmy Graham, Matt and Mindi make sure you're not forgetting about Vernon Davis. More: Game capsule 49ers interviews

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Matt Maiocco details a few matchups you need to focus on when the Saints' top-ranked offense faces the record-setting 49ers defense. More: Game capsule Playoff interviews

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Despite what's been written, the New Orleans Saints have been a great road team over the last three seasons. On Friday, Saints head coach Sean Payton will lead his team through practice at Candlestick Park.

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Jim Harbaugh has started five playoff games, but the postseason atmosphere is new to most of his players. That's why he's doing his best to keep it loose -- yet focused -- at practice this week.

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The 49ers went straight from their walk-through practice today, which is not required to be open to the media, into their "team" work portion of practice, which can also be closed -- and it was on Thursday.

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Return men Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams were cleared to play Saturday, but the injury report Wednesday didn't bode well for Delanie Walker. More: Kaepernick's playoff plan 'Stretcher game'

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After eight seasons with no postseason appearances, the 49ers confirmed Thursday that the end zones at Candlestick Park will be painted red for the team's playoff game vs. the New Orleans Saints.

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Ray McDonald made his return from a hamstring injury Wednesday, but the Saints injury update isn't so positive, and it involves a defensive leader.

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