SANTA CLARA -- Try though they may, the 49ers can't escape the fact that it's not just another game when the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks play these days.

Credit wide receiver Anquan Boldin and inside linebacker Patrick Willis for saying as much Wednesday, when asked about the intense rivalry between the NFC West foes as they prepare to face off for a third time this season Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

"There's no question there's a lot of hostility between us," Willis said. "But at the end of the day, they're another football team."

Well, not quite. The Seahawks are the team that wants what the 49ers had last year, a spot in the Super Bowl. They are the team that desperately wants to dethrone the 49ers as the baddest team in the league.

And the Seahawks are the team that handed the 49ers their worst loss each of the past two seasons, both times in Seattle, where the Seahawks are 16-1 since 2011.

Boldin is new to the rivalry, given he joined the 49ers this season. However, he said it bears all the characteristics of other rivalries he experienced in his NFL career.

"I think so," Boldin said, when asked if there's dislike between the 49ers and Seahawks. "It will always be that way when you have two pretty good teams in the same division, you play each other a couple of times a year. . . . It was the same when I was in Baltimore playing the Steelers."

The Seahawks earned the right to host Sunday's game by virtue of their 13-3 record. A 29-3 victory over the 49ers in Seattle on Sept. 15 proved the difference. The 49ers beat the Seahawks 19-17 at Candlestick Park on Dec. 8.