NFC Championship pregame: Hufanga to sound foghorn; Montana is honorary captain

SANTA CLARA — Brandon Aiyuk offered a poignant and self-aware response this week when asked if the 49ers are rallying to get 14-year veteran Trent Williams to his first Super Bowl.

“I’ve never been to the Super Bowl,” Aiyuk said. “I’m trying to get to the Super Bowl.”

As playoff-tested as the 49ers for their third straight NFC Championship Game and fourth in five years, their star-studded offense carries over just three starters from their 2019 team’s Super Bowl appearance: tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Defensively, a majority of their starters have Super Bowl experience: defensive linemen Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Hargrave (on 2022 Eagles); linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw; cornerback Charvarius Ward (on 2019-20 Chiefs); and, safety Logan Ryan (2014, ’16 Patriots).

Beating the Lions in today’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff would send the 49ers to Super Bowl LVIII, held Feb. 11 in the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium, which is where the 49ers made their preseason debut in August.

The Lions are among the four NFL franchises that have not reached a Super Bowl. Their last road playoff victory came in 1957 against the host 49ers at Kezar Stadium; the Lions went on to beat the Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game.

TODAY’S HONORARY STARTERS

Safety Talanoa Hufanga will sound the ceremonial pregame foghorn before kickoff. Hufanga sustained a season-ending knee injury in the 49ers’ November win here against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has kept a low profile since then, although a player of the game continues to receive a kukui-nut necklace that Hufanga’s given out in recent seasons.

Talanoa Hufanga will ignite the pregame foghorn at Levi’s Stadium for today’s NFC Championship Game vs 49ers and Lions

Hufanga sustained torn ACL in win here vs Bucs in November and has kept low profile since then, although a player-of-game gets his kukui-nut necklace weekly pic.twitter.com/mPu08nOJvX

— Cam Inman (@CamInman) January 28, 2024

Today’s honorary captains are the 49ers’ and the Lions’ franchise icons and Pro Football Hall of Fame members: Joe Montana and Barry Sanders.

The halftime entertainment is Journey, and if pregame sound checks are any sign, one song could be “Don’t Stop Believin’”.

“Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit … .” Don’t be surprised if the opening lyrics referencing South Detroit are changed to San Francisco at the home crowd’s delight.

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WHO’S OUT

Designated as inactive for the 49ers are cornerback Samuel Womack III, wide receiver Ronnie Bell, wide receiver Willie Snead, linebacker Jalen Graham, quarterback Brandon Allen, linebacker Curtis Robinson and offensive lineman Matt Pryor

Inactives for the Lions are cornerback Steven Gilmore, defensive lineman Charles Harris, quarterback Hendon Hooker, guard Jonah Jackson, defensive lineman Broderic Martin, wide receiver Kalif Raymond and safety Tracey Walker.

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