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ESPN says “Farewell to Candlestick”

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When Monday's game between the Falcons and the 49ers was included in the 2013 NFL schedule, ESPN, which airs MNF, had two story lines in mind. One was a thrilling rematch of last year's NFC Championship with playoff implications for both teams. The other was that it would be the 49ers' last regular-season game in their longtime home.

Well, neither story line worked out quite the way ESPN thought. One reality is worse: the Falcons have dropped to become one of the worst teams in the league this year, and this contest could potentially be a blowout. The other reality actually works in ESPN's favor: This will most likely be the final event to take place at the 'Stick, period.

Yes, it looks like the 49ers will make the playoffs, but they'll almost certainly be a Wild Card team, which means they'll play all playoff games on the road. So it looks like Monday's national telecast will be Candlestick's swan song. Look for ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden to play that angle to the hilt, especially if the game is indeed lopsided.

Expect footage of then-Vice President Richard Nixon throwing out the first pitch of the Giants' inaugural game in 1960, the very first sports event to take place in the stadium's 53-year history. And shots of the Raiders, who played three games there also in '60.

Will we see the Beatles perform their final live concert ever from '66? How about the 49ers first season there in '71?

And of course, Game 3 of the '89 World Series between the A's and Giants, when the Loma Prieta earthquake stole the show. And maybe between all the memories, there'll be some football.

Speaking of which, before Monday's climactic contest takes place, there are a couple of other matchups on Sunday that 49ers fans might want to pay attention to. Unfortunately Fox doesn't have the doubleheader this week which is too bad because one of those clashes won't be on the air here.

It's the Saints at the Panthers, a rematch of the two NFC South rivals who played just two weeks ago. This one is important to the 49ers because one of these squads will win the division, and enter the playoffs most likely as the #2 seed, and the other will join the 49ers as a Wild Card. Whichever one that last one is, the 49ers want to finish with a better record to claim the #5 spot. That way, if they beat #4, and #6 beats #3, the following week the 49ers will play that #2 team and avoid a trip to #1, the Seahawks. At least for a week.

Speaking of the 'hawks, 49ers fans will be able to tune into Sunday afternoon's clash between the Cardinals, who are one game behind the 49ers, and those darned 'hawks who just need one win to clinch the division and that #1 seed.

Believe it or not, if Seattle somehow dropped its last two at home and the 49ers won their final two, the two teams would be tied and the 49ers would have a better division record, and thus win the West. But talk about a longshot.

Not only that, if the Cardinals did pull off that win and then, somehow, the 49ers gave away their very last contest at the 'Stick to a subpar Falcons squad, it would mean, with those two divisional rivals tied, the last game of the season, 49ers at the Cards, would be for that Wild Card spot.

Hard to know who to root for in that Cards-'hawks clash. But it's at 1 p.m. on KTVU channel 2 with Chris Myers and Tim Ryan. Think of it as a warmup for the big goodbye to Candlestick.

By the way, you'll find Monday's 49ers farewell to Bayview-Hunter's Point on KPIX channel 5 which, as usual, has ESPN's telecast. PIX will follow up the contest with its own salute to the famous, if not infamous stadium.

So dig out your old Croix de Candlestick, bundle up, grab a beer, and bid adieu to one of the longest-running acts in sports history.

Bye-bye baby.

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