SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis will miss the first game of his four-year NFL career Sunday because of a hand injury, the team said Wednesday.
Willis, a Pro Bowl pick each year since entering the league, has 128 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles this season.
The 49ers are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
The team said quarterback Alex Smith will start in the season finale against Arizona. Smith and Troy Smith were shifted in and out of the starting lineup this season by Coach Mike Singletary, who has been fired.