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73 days to 49ers kickoff: Who wore it best? Who wears it now?

The San Francisco 49ers season starts in 73 days. We take a look at jersey No. 73, once worn by a Hall of Famer.

Seattle Times/JR Partners

The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game is now a mere 73 days away from kicking off their 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.

Who wore it best: DL Leo Nomellini (1952-1963)

This is an easy one for us. Leo the Lion is a Hall of Famer, and nobody has worn his number since 1969. He was actually the 49ers first draft pick after the team joined the NFL, selected 11th overall out of Minnesota. During his 14 year career, Nomellini was voted to ten Pro Bowls and was named first team All Pro six different teams. He and teammate Joe Perry were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969, and had their jerseys retired at the same time.

We talk about tough guys like Justin Smith, but Leo the Lion was kind of a beast. He played on both sides of the ball during his career, and earned All Pro honors for both. That's not to take away from modern players, but there's something to be said for the two-way players of old.

Nomellini is one of 14 members of the 49ers (13 players + Bill Walsh) to earn entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Frank Gore is working toward getting into the debate, but running backs face a tough uphill climb moving forward. Justin Smith will be an interesting case when he becomes eligible. He does not have the huge counting stats, but he was viewed as completely dominant during the height of his career. I don't think Smith gets into the Hall of Fame, at least not early on, but the debate will be fascinating.