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Alex Smith's rocky career with the 49ers apparently is over, little more than three years after he was the top pick in the NFL draft. General manager Scot McCloughan said last week the 49ers can't afford to bring him back next year at his scheduled $9 million, with an expensive salary-cap hit, unless he was the clear-cut starter. The only scenario in which he could return is for the 49ers to waive him after this season and then sign him to a one-year deal at a greatly reduced salary. The 49ers don't seem interested in doing that. Smith no longer seems to be in their plans since he lost the starting job to free-agent signee J.T. O'Sullivan in the preseason. -- SF Chronicle