Niners name Smith the starter

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - As if there were any doubts, Alex Smith is the 49ers' starting quarterback heading into the regular season.

Coach Jim Harbaugh formally made the announcement after San Francisco's 20-17 victory at San Diego in Thursday night's exhibition finale.

"I'm pretty sure we can say that," Harbaugh said. "He played with a very cool head and made good decisions. He played the way you want him to out there - calm, cool, collected."

Smith went 8 for 10 for 45 and wasn't sacked.

Harbaugh had said all along the No. 1 job was Smith's to lose, and the new coach appreciated his QB's leadership and initiative leading workouts at nearby San Jose State during the lockout this summer in what was deemed "Camp Alex."

Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, took the majority of reps with the first-team offense during training camp, too. Now, he will be the guy going into the team's Sept. 11 opener against the defending NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park. Smith returned to the Niners for 2011 on a $5 million, one-year deal after a positive meeting with Harbaugh - an ex-NFL quarterback himself - during the spring.

While Smith didn't throw a touchdown pass in his four preseason starts, Harbaugh has long believed he can succeed in the first-year coach's West Coast offense despite his up-and-down tenure with this franchise.


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