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MONTANA SAYS HE MAY LEAVE IF HE'S BENCHED

Quarterback Joe Montana says he wants to play. If he can't, he says he may leave the 49ers.

"I would rather go to another team and be able to play. I think it's just a natural reaction for a competitor," Montana said. "Show me somebody who likes to be on the bench and I'll show you someone who is always on the bench."Montana is on the injured reserve because of recurring arm trouble and won't play the first four 49ers games of the season. Instead, Steve Young will start. Montana said he has nothing against Young, the first to take the starting job from Montana since 1981.

"It has nothing to do with my contract, the 49ers or Steve," Montana said.

Montana claims no one from the team watched him throw before he was put on the IR.

49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. said he thought Montana's reaction was natural.

"Some people would criticize him for being so stubborn and unrealistic about coming back," said DeBartolo. "How can you criticize the very same inner drive that makes him the great quarterback that he is? That's just Joe. You got to love him."

Montana, who will earn $3 million this season, underwent elbow surgery in October. He threw normally at 49ers mini-camps in May and June, but was sidelined Aug. 1 when his arm became inflamed.

Montana said he was first told he was going to be placed on the injured reserve last Thursday, then asked if he would make an appearance in a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday. Montana was officially placed on the IR on Tuesday.

"I can't imagine why they wanted me to go out and make a little ceremonial appearance," he said. "For what? If I can't get ready for the regular season, why jeopardize myself in an exhibition game."

Montana did not suit up for the game, but did throw 35 15-yarders to backup Steve Bono about an hour before. He said he was encouraged by the tosses.

"The arm felt great, better than it did going to training camp," he told the San Francisco Examiner. "I couldn't help but think that it would have been good to rejoin practice on Monday."

But Montana can't practice with the team until the fourth game. Until then, he will throw four times a week with conditioning coach Jerry Attaway to assistant trainer Ray Tufts.

"If I am 100 percent, I am not the kind of guy who would sit on the bench and happily collect his money," Montana told the Examiner.