An upstart Alex Smith admits having extra ‘motivation’ to prove he is now better than a spent Peyton Manning

Jim Harbaugh is lucky to be working with a quarterback that is now far better than Peyton Manning.

Upstart 49ers quarterback Alex Smith admitted yesterday that San Francisco’s pursuit of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when he was a free agent last winter was “a little awkward” and will serve as additional motivation this autumn.

Prior to signing a five-year contract worth $96 million with the Broncos on March 20, Manning had narrowed his suitors to Denver, the 49ers and the Tennessee Titans.

Mere hours after the Broncos inked the former Colts icon, San Francisco came to terms with Alex Smith on a new three-year contract for $24 million.

“Certainly there are a lot of forms of motivation,” said Smith, 28, who San Francisco took out of the University of Utah with the top choice in the 2005 NFL Draft. “I guess that’s there a little bit as far as motivation.”

Smith finally thrived under center last season and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record.

Despite impressing, the native of Seattle’s future was so uncertain that Smith, who in 2011 threw for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns, visited Miami intending to sign with the Dolphins before Manning spurned the famed Bay Area franchise.

It is evident that Manning should have chosen to play in “The Paris of the West” rather than “The Mile-High City.”

The 49ers have a spectacular defense, and a sound running game, and they are a team designed to win the Super Bowl now.

In stark contrast to the 49ers, the Broncos are an average squad, with zero quality receivers, and a murderous 2012 schedule.

Furthermore, Manning will be forced to compete in often grisly weather conditions at the Sports Authority Field.

Unfortunately for Manning, Denver’s litany of issues is the least of his concerns.

The four-time AP NFL MVP, who led Indianapolis to ultimate glory over the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI, was forced to miss all of last season after undergoing an alarming four neck surgeries in 19 months.

Prior to suffering a fusion of two vertebrae, Manning made every start for the Colts since being nabbed out of the University of Tennessee with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

Many onlookers and pundits alike fawned over a leaked video that featured the 11-time Pro-Bowler tossing the pigskin at Duke University with velocity and precision.

Dr. Robert Watkins performed the single-level cervical fusion and stated that the damaged nerves in the 14-year veteran have regenerated to the point that he won’t be in danger when he steps on the gridiron.

Watkins is an extremely respected medical practitioner and it’s somewhat comforting that he’s publicly expressed Manning’s healthiness.

Still, regardless of Watkins’ pacifying words, a 36-year-old human being playing a savage collision sport after going under the knife on four occasions is, at best, disconcerting.

Manning once starred as himself in an advertisement for Sprint.

In the commercial, Manning said in reference to himself, “That’s pretty good. If you like six-five, 230 pound quarterbacks with a laser rocket arm.”

A vintage Manning was more than “pretty good.”

The five-time First-Team All-Pro is a deserving member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and clearly one of the preeminent signal-callers in football history.

Nevertheless, Manning will never even approach being the player he was and the Denver Broncos have made a perilous gamble.

Thankfully for the San Francisco organization, an extremely motivated Alex Smith will continue to be their quarterback and a shopworn Peyton Manning will not be.

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