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Jim Harbaugh says 49ers never pursued Peyton Manning

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Those with longish memories might recall that there was a period back in March when the 49ers were part of the hunt for Peyton Manning’s services.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh threw with Manning, the 49ers also reportedly gave him a physical and Peyton Manning told Peter King that telling Harbaugh he wasn’t coming to San Francisco was difficult.

“I wish I hadn’t gotten so close to [Titans coach Mike Munchak],” Manning said. “That was a tough call. Same with Jim Harbaugh.”

The 49ers held off on negotiating a new deal with Alex Smith until after Manning chose to sign with the Broncos, something else that led people to think the 49ers were interested in signing Manning. Smith ended up re-signing and didn’t seem too put out by the time spent with Manning, leaving the whole thing as nothing more than a short chapter in an entertaining offseason.

Unless none of it actually happened at all. Harbaugh, unprompted by a question, said Wednesday that the team never pursued Manning at all.

“Oh one other thing: There’s a perception out there and it’s an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning,” Harbaugh said, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “I keep hearing it over and over. It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing. We were evaluating. I’ve said all along that Alex Smith has been our quarterback. There’s no scenario, other than Alex choosing to sign with another team, that we would consider him not as our quarterback.”

Harbaugh went even further to make the team’s commitment to Smith as clear as possible. He said the team’s “evaluation” of Manning was designed with the intentionof having both Manning and Smith on the team next year.

“Were we out there seeing and evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah. We evaluate and eliminate the possibility. For further evidence, we would not have given any player out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap, and let six or seven of our own guys go. Hopefully that sets the record straight. I don’t want you to keep reporting the silliness and phoniness.”

We’re not really sure why this would be coming up at this point. You can use any word you want -- pursue, evaluate, observe, court -- but there was definitely interest - a word Harbaugh used on Wednesday -- in bringing Manning to San Francisco. Denying it at this point just seems silly, especially when you throw in the stuff about keeping both quarterbacks while simultaneously worrying about your cap space.