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Favre lights up Candlestick, beats slumping 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The aching ankle, the injured pride and the
Green Bay Packers' losing record all stopped hurting as soon as
Brett Favre stepped on some familiar turf Sunday.

A visit to Candlestick Park does wonders for Favre -- and given
the way he played, this might not even be his last trip to San
Francisco.

Favre carved up Candlestick again, passing for 293 yards and
hitting Donald Driver for a 68-yard touchdown as the Packers
snapped a three-game losing streak with a 30-19 victory over the
slumping San Francisco 49ers.

Playing in the waterfront stadium that hosted some of his
greatest playoff performances, Favre was steady and fearless while
breathing life back into the Packers (5-8), who had been
floundering on offense since early November.

Favre has won 11 of his 12 meetings with the 49ers over 15
years, throwing a TD pass in each game -- and rarely looking better
than he did in this one.

"It wasn't a championship game, it wasn't a playoff game, but
I've grown to appreciate these more and more," said Favre, who
went 22-for-34 and surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the 15th
straight season to extend his own NFL record.

"There may have been times in my career when I took these games
for granted, but these wins are much harder to come by now. I don't
want to sound crazy, but this one means as much as any of them,
just because of circumstances."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the coordinator for San
Francisco's awful offense last season, but he came up with plenty
of ways to embarrass former boss Mike Nolan's defense -- and Favre
executed nearly all of them. Ruvell Martin also caught a long TD
pass, and Driver had nine catches for 160 yards.

"Brett Favre has done this so many times," 49ers linebacker
Brandon Moore said. "We just gave up big plays, and whenever
[Favre] can feel comfortable in the pocket, he's going to make
things happen."

Both storied franchises' playoff hopes are all but extinguished,
yet the 37-year-old quarterback and his receivers reclaimed their
groove in a familiar spot.

Favre led the Packers against Steve Young's 49ers in four
straight postseasons in the late 1990s, with Favre winning three
matchups -- including two at Candlestick Park. Young, the 49ers'
honorary captain for this game, finally beat the Packers on a
last-second pass to Terrell Owens in January 1999, besting Favre's
gritty 292-yard effort.

The Packers' 38-10 loss to the Jets last week had Favre
contemplating retirement, as every loss does. But this big game
reminded the quarterback how much he loves the game.

"Days like today make me think I could play 10 more [years],"
Favre said. "After last week's game, I would have told you I
should get the first bus out. ... I'm happy with today. It sure
makes it easier to say the right things and do the right things. It
makes you go home and say, 'Man, I could do this for a while.' "

While the Packers were rejuvenated, the 49ers are back in the
dumps following consecutive road losses that erased San Francisco's
momentum from a three-game winning streak.

Frank Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown for the 49ers
(5-8), but Alex Smith was just 12-of-29 for 201 yards and two
interceptions while facing constant harassment. Rookie tight end
Vernon Davis turned a short pass into a late 52-yard touchdown, but
San Francisco lost its third straight.

"I don't think our energy was there," said Antonio Bryant, who
had only one catch for 39 yards. "We were kind of flat. Our crowd
was there. Everybody was into it. The momentum kept swinging. We
had two opportunities with great field position [at] about the 50,
and we didn't capitalize on it."

Driver made the game's most spectacular play after Smith threw a
terrible interception to waste such field position midway through
the third quarter with San Francisco trailing just 17-13.

The receiver ran under Favre's long pass, then eluded a tackle
and reversed his field before outrunning three defenders to the end
zone, where Favre picked him up in a bear hug after sprinting down
the field.

"My biggest thing is I want to be part of [Favre's] legacy,"
Driver said. "He has that, and I'm trying to establish that."

Favre ran a picturesque play-action pass that froze the defense
in the first quarter, and no defenders were within shouting
distance of Martin as he caught a 36-yard pass for his first NFL
touchdown.

"That was probably the toughest throw I've had to make all
year," Favre said. "You don't want to overthrow him or underthrow
him."

Game notes
Nolan, who wore his suit-and-tie ensemble for the second
time this season, made two successful challenges. The first erased
a long catch by Greg Jennings, who was out of bounds on the
Packers' opening drive, and the second improved an unfavorable spot
on Smith's dive near the goal line, setting up Gore's third-quarter
TD. ... RB Ahman Green scored his 67th touchdown for the Packers,
surpassing Sterling Sharpe for third place in franchise history.

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