(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Photos.)
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Alex Smith ran off the field at Candlestick Park two weeks ago to a standing ovation and cheers from the sellout crowd, not so 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 surely expected to be under center himself chasing the franchise's sixth championship, not watching strong-armed second-year pro Colin Kaepernick direct the offense against Ray Lewis and Co.
Yet as he has done in each trying time in an up-and-down career, Smith has handled the change with class.
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