SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco defensive back Jimmie Ward and Cincinnati quarterback AJ McCarron have been friends since their childhood in Mobile, Alabama. They will be facing each other as rivals for the first time on Sunday.
McCarron, who will be making his first NFL start this week, is so familiar with Ward that he calls him `Neko,' the shortened version of his middle name, Neko Suave, a derivative of the early 1990s hit record ''Rico Suave.''
Ward's first year in organized football was as an 8-year-old year with the Mobile Youth Municipal Raiders and McCarron guided the team as its quarterback. The Raiders won multiple Youth Bowl championships, with Ward as a linebacker.
The players attended different high schools and did not play against each other.
Ward went on to star at Northern Illinois while McCarron helped Alabama to a pair of national championships.
They'll be sharing the same field again for the first time in nearly a decade, though from opposite sides of the ball.
''He's a pocket passer,'' Ward said Thursday. ''If he gets comfortable he can make his throws. I know he'll be ready to go.''
Ward, who doesn't know why he was given his middle name, plays on a unit that seems to have two distinct personalities.
The 49ers allow the fewest points at home (15.8) and the second-most (31.4) on the road. The 49ers have not allowed more than 20 points in any home game and have given up at least 20 points in all seven road games.
''We're trying to get consistent on the road, period, no matter who we play,'' 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said. ''I thought we made some strides against Chicago. We want to play on the road as effectively as we do at home.''
NOTES: G Alex Boone (knee), WR Torrey Smith (back, toe) and LB Michael Wilhoite (ankle) all missed practice. .... DT Quinton Dial (shoulder), RB Kendall Gaskins (concussion), LB Eli Harold (shoulder, hamstring), LB Aaron Lynch (concussion), C Marcus Martin (ankle), T Eric Pears (knee), T Joe Staley (knee), S Jaquiski Tartt (ankle) and G Andrew Tiller (knee) were all limited in practice.
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