Settled summer slate for S.F.

After their grueling, globe-trotting preseason last year, the 49ers 2003 exhibition slate measures up as a pleasant summer stroll. The Niners will play their four-game schedule in the space of three weeks, and they'll only have to leave California once - for a trip to Kansas City for their Aug. 9 opener.

The Niners opened on Aug. 3 last year, when they began an oppressive five-game preseason with a trip to Japan. They ended that depleting schedule by playing three times in a 10-day span, which was followed by a trip to New York for the first regular-season Thursday night opener in NFL history.

The Niners will have a much more settled summer this year.

After their trip to Kansas City for a Saturday night opener, the Niners won't have to leave home again until the end of the month. They'll play  a nationally-televised Thursday night game in San Francisco against their Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders five days later, then won't play again until nine days later when they host the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 23.

That will be New Orleans' first trip ever to San Francisco for a preseason game, and will continue the rivalry between the former longtime NFC West opponents. The Niners and Saints (who now reside in the NFC South) met last year in the first season of NFL realignment, but now aren't scheduled to meet again in the regular season until 2006.

The Niners will travel to San Diego on Aug. 29 to conclude the preseason. It will be the 16th consecutive year the teams have played a summer exhibition game and the 30th time since 1971.



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