CLOSEST THING TO REAL THING IN PRESEASON

For one final extended peek at what the 49ers will look like when the regular season begins, make sure and tune in Saturday night for their exhibition game against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.

It's the closest thing to the real thing you're likely to see during the preseason.

Coach Steve Mariucci said his starters will play the entire first half, and possibly into the third quarter.

"I told the team to be prepared to cool down at halftime and then get back warmed up again and be ready to play in the third quarter," Mariucci said. "We are going to probably play the starters longer than we have. This is typically the game that you would do that. Of course, next week, that won't happen."

The Niners conclude the preseason Aug. 31 in Denver, and the starters probably won't see much more than a cameo role in that game as the team rests its top players and takes a long look at other prospects fighting to earn the final undecided berths on the roster.

That could make Saturday's game with the Seahawks - coached by Mike Holmgren, the former 49ers' offensive coordinator - taste tantalizingly like a game that matters. For one half, at least.

"Out of all the preseason games, maybe this is (the most competitive)," Niners guard Ray Brown said. "The starters are going to get a nice chunk of playing time. And this probably is a competitive game from the standpoint of both coaching staffs are familiar with one another."

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