SANTA CLARA -- Both Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick waited their turns behind Alex Smith.

For Rodgers, that meant stewing at the 2005 NFL draft until the Green Bay Packers rescued him, hours after his beloved 49ers selected Smith with the No. 1 pick.

For Kaepernick, he waited 25 games before becoming the 49ers' starter, seizing an opportunity that arose once Smith sustained a Nov. 11 concussion.

Come Saturday night at Candlestick Park, a new era will begin in the 49ers' postseason rivalry with the Packers.

The time-tested, Rodgers-Smith storyline is expiring. Entering the picture is Kaepernick, a Wisconsin native who moved to California when he was 4 and grew up a Packers fan.

"I don't think you're going to see any big eyes," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of Kaepernick's approach to his playoff debut.

Kaepernick has never met Rodgers but certainly admires the Chico native and Cal product, who's trying to win a second Super Bowl in three seasons.

"Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback," Kaepernick said. "You see what he does on the field and performances he's been having, so you can't say enough about the guy."

Rodgers is expecting a "good crew" to come down from Chico to watch what will be his first meaningful game at Candlestick Park. He expects it to be "fun," which is also how he titled his 2008 appearance there in an exhibition game, when he completed 9 of 16 passes for 58 yards as the Packers moved past the Brett Favre era.


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"I have a lot of good memories growing up watching Steve Young and Joe Montana on TV and the Super Bowl wins and being a 49ers fan," Rodgers said. "That was a team I enjoyed watching and dreamt about playing for.

"I'm eight years removed here, and obviously I'm really happy with the situation I'm in."

Rodgers and Smith, who became close friends after the 2005 draft process, golfed together in Lake Tahoe's American Century Championship last July. Less than two months later, Smith won their head-to-head battle in the season opener at Green Bay, 30-22.

"It's been a long time since the (draft's) green room," Rodgers said. "I think he's a very classy guy."

Although Rodgers recently remarked on the NFL Network that Smith needs to go to a team that "appreciates" him, Rodgers wouldn't weigh in Tuesday on the 49ers' midseason promotion of Kaepernick.

Kaepernick still has made a favorable impression on Rodgers, who noted: "He's a big, strong, athletic, young player with a really bright future."

Kaepernick has posted a 5-2 record since replacing Smith. Kaepernick has averaged 8.3 yards per attempt, which would have led the NFL had he attempted six more passes. He's accounted for 15 touchdowns this season (10 passing, five running) with only three interceptions (1.4 percent of his attempts).

Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to Rodgers, who passed for 4,295 yards with 39 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the regular season.

Trent Dilfer, the former 49ers quarterback who is now an ESPN analyst, gives the Packers the edge Saturday based on the quarterbacks.

"I see that assassin look in Rodgers' eyes. I see it in the way he is playing," Dilfer said on KNBR 680-AM. "He's coming back home, and this guy carries a huge chip on his shoulder now that the Niners didn't draft him."

Smith's demotion has caused Dilfer to carry a chip on Smith's behalf. "It was kind of unjust what happened to him, unfair," Dilfer added. "Now at the same time, Alex realizes as much as anybody that this is the No Fair League. So, I just hurt for him because he had played so well."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Minnesota
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Smith led the 49ers into last season's NFC Championship game with a riveting, divisional-round win over the New Orleans Saints and passing-maestro Drew Brees.

Now it's Kaepernick's turn to attempt the same feat a year later, against another of the league's passing icons.

Said Kaepernick: "It's another game. There's just more at stake."

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.