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Even without Justin Smith lining up next to him, a healthy Aldon Smith looked just fine Thursday in the 49ers' exhibition opener.
Justin Smith was on the sideline, giving the injured middle finger on his right hand some time to heal. But Aldon Smith, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, looked to be in midseason form during his seven snaps of action against the Denver Broncos.
Aldon Smith blasted through Denver Broncos left tackle Chris Clark, a five-year professional, to get a hand on Peyton Manning as he was throwing to force a third-down incompletion on the final snap for the starters.
"I should have got the sack," Smith said. "But pressure's pressure, right?"
Aldon Smith did not leave the game empty-handed, however. The Broncos' own third-year pass-rusher, Von Miller, suggested the two players swap jerseys after the game. Smith, a soccer fan, obliged and returned to the locker room with Miller's No. 58 tossed over his shoulder.
"It's my first jersey," Smith said. "I don't know if I'm into it, yet. I'll have to see how it feels, how it goes. I'm not really big on asking people for their jerseys, but he's a good guy. That's my guy, so I'll make an exception."
Miller was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft. He has lived up to all the lofty expectations with 30 sacks in two Pro Bowl seasons, including 18.5 last season.
However, Smith, the No. 7 overall pick in the same 2011 draft, has been even better.
Smith has 33.5 sacks in two seasons, the most for any player in his first two seasons in NFL history.
On Thursday, Manning's Broncos gained two first downs and 22 yards on seven plays when the two Super Bowl-contending teams had their starters on the field.
"It shows where our defense is," Smith said. "We haven't taken any steps back. We're just trying to move forward and get better."
The 49ers' defense was outstanding during the regular season but struggled in the playoffs. Smith did not record a sack in the final six games of the season, as he was struggling with a shoulder injury and Justin Smith sustained a partially torn triceps tendon that required offseason surgery, too.
When asked in the early days of training camp when he believes he didn't have a sack late in the season, Smith cited several contributing factors.
"I think it was a couple of things," he said. "Them seeing the pace I was on, I don't think any team wanted me to either set the record on them or me get sacks on them because it wouldn't look good."
Also, he admitted Justin Smith's injury, as well as his own, were factors.
"They have a lot more attention they can focus on me," Smith said of the injury that knocked Justin Smith out for the final 2 1/2 regular-season games and limited him throughout the playoffs.
"The shoulder -- I'm not a man on excuses -- but being hurt doesn't make anything easier for you," he said.