Prime-time preseason for 49ers

The 49ers will be no strangers to the football world by the time the regular season begins in September. San Francisco will play two nationally-televised games during its exhibition season, including the kickoff game of the NFL preseason on Aug. 3 when the Niners play the Washington Redskins in Osaka, Japan.

The NFL announced its 11-game national television preseason schedule on Saturday, and it also includes an August 19 game between the Niners and Broncos in Denver that will be televised by ABC.

San Francisco's appearance in the 11th American Bowl in Japan will be televised by ESPN. It's the first NFL game to be played in Osaka, a city of three million on Osaka Bay in southern Japan that is San Francisco's city sister. The game also will mark the NFL coaching debut of new Washington coach Steve Spurrier.

Traveling long distances in the preseason is nothing new to the 49ers. This year will be the sixth time San Francisco has gone overseas for an exhibition game. The Niners already have been to Japan twice - for a 1989 preseason opener against the Rams and a 1995 summer game against Denver. Both of those games were in Tokyo.

The Niners also have played twice in London, once in Berlin and once in Barcelona. It also is expected that the 49ers will play in the first nationally-televised game of the regular season, a Sept. 5 Thursday night game on ESPN against the New York Giants. The NFL is expected to officially announce that matchup when it releases its 2002 season schedule later this month.

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