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Originally published Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:29 PM

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Alex Smith will start for Niners vs. Hawks

Alex Smith is playing to keep San Francisco's slim postseason hopes alive, and he's playing for a job in 2011. On Sunday against Seattle...

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alex Smith is playing to keep San Francisco's slim postseason hopes alive, and he's playing for a job in 2011.

On Sunday against Seattle, Smith will be back behind center for the 49ers after a five-game absence in which he was both hurt and healthy. This upcoming stretch very well could be the last hurrah with San Francisco for the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick. He will become a free agent after this season and almost certainly will move on to another team.

"Those are things that are out there, no question," Smith said Wednesday of his NFL future. "Those are things you continually try to push to the back of your mind. ... I'm not thinking about that, honestly. I'm thinking about Seattle. We're in a playoff mentality. This is a must-win game. I'm getting the call and that's all I'm thinking about."

Coach Mike Singletary told Smith he would be the starter again for the 49ers, who face a must-win game against the division rival Seahawks. Seattle whipped the Niners 31-6 in the teams' season opener and now could all but eliminate San Francisco (4-8) from playoff contention with a victory Sunday.

Troy Smith was 3-2 starting for the 49ers the past five games. Alex Smith is 17-30 as a starter.

Notes

• Quarterback Matt Cassel, a key reason the Kansas City Chiefs have emerged as contenders and lead the AFC West late in the season, underwent an appendectomy. How long the Chiefs might be without Cassel, the AFC offensive player of the month, was uncertain. Taking most of the practice snaps was Brodie Croyle, who is 0-9 as an NFL starter and has not appeared in a game all year.

Percy Harvin (migraines), Ray Edwards (ankle) and Brett Favre were among six Minnesota Vikings who missed practice while dealing with injuries. Favre said he is unsure if he will be able to extend his NFL record for consecutive games started (297) against the New York Giants.

• The NFL has wrapped up its investigation into allegations that Favre sent inappropriate phone messages and photos to a Jets game hostess two years ago, the woman's attorney said. The case has been sent to commissioner Roger Goodell and the league's lawyers for review.

Michael Vick leads Pro Bowl voting 1 ½ years after he was released from prison. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback had 729,838 fan votes, nearly 39,000 more than second-place Peyton Manning, the NFL said.

• Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington is scheduled for shoulder surgery Friday, and he said it's 50-50 whether he'll retire.

• The San Diego Chargers told mayor Jerry Sanders that the team will not exercise its 2011 escape clause. The announcement came amid recent speculation that the Chargers could be headed to Los Angeles.

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• Tackle Chad Clifton is recovering from a concussion and cornerback Charles Woodson injured his ankle in practice, adding to the Green Bay Packers' injury woes.

• Detroit Lions defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch will go on injured reserve because of a bulging disk in his neck. Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was fined $15,000 by the NFL after drawing an unnecessary-roughness penalty for a hit on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler last weekend.

• Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders (biceps) will not play again this season after being placed on injured reserve.

• The New York Jets released receiver Laveranues Coles a few days after re-signing him and signed safety Emanuel Cook.

• The New Orleans Saints placed veteran running back Ladell Betts (neck) on injured reserve and added veteran linebacker Kawika Mitchell to the roster.

• Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy still isn't ready to practice because of an ankle injury that will likely keep him out for a third straight game.

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