SANTA CLARA -- It's only an exhibition game, but the 49ers are relishing the prospect of playing against former teammate Alex Smith.
The 49ers face Smith on Friday for the first time since they traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round draft pick.
"It's personal with Alex," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "So, it's probably different in that way. I feel like there's a great friendship there and a lot of history."
The 49ers made Smith the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in 2005. Harbaugh supported Smith as his unquestioned starter when he joined the 49ers in 2011.
That changed in 2012 when Harbaugh wavered on Smith as his starter and switched to Colin Kaepernick, first as a result of an injury to Smith, then for good once Smith recovered.
Smith played the role of loyal soldier throughout the process, but he made it clear that he envisioned himself a starter in the NFL. Hence, the 49ers traded Smith soon after the season ended.
Harbaugh said he has nothing but the utmost respect for Smith.
"I have great memories of his leadership and his play, the kind of person he was," Harbaugh said. "Go up and down the locker room, and he's a guy that was universally respected by his teammates and his coaches."
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman chuckled when asked about the potential for hitting Smith during Friday's game.
"There's a first time for everything," Bowman said. "We never got a chance to hit him. This time we can. So, we're looking forward to it. I know Alex knows what's coming. This is football, man. He's on another team."
First-year Chiefs coach Andy Reid told Sports Illustrated that he twice attempted to trade for Smith when he was the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Maybe so, but that's news to Harbaugh.
"I wasn't aware of any instance where the Eagles were trying to trade for Alex Smith while I was here, during my tenure with the 49ers," Harbaugh said. "Nor would we have."