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Bears respect Brett Favre, though few links remain

Brett Favre will have his retired numbered unveiled Thursday night at Lambeau Field. (Sun-Times media)

Brett Favre’s last relevant throw landed in Tracy Porter’s arms.

Tied in the NFC Championship game with 19 seconds to play, the then-Vikings quarterback rolled right. Rather than run to set up a shorter field goal, a hobbled Favre threw across his body — and the field — and was intercepted by Porter at the Saints’ 22.

The pick forced overtime, where the Saints scored to earn a bid to Super Bowl XLIV. One year from retirement, Favre would never again appear in the postseason.

Now with the Bears, Porter called Favre one of the great quarterbacks of all time, but said his fearlessness cut both ways.

“If you can make him pay for it, you love going against a guy like that,” he said. “Sometimes, too, that works in his favor. You have guys that don’t make the throws he would make.”

Those throws helped Favre to a 22-10 record against the Bears as a member of the Packers. His final great moment in Lambeau Field will come against the Bears on Thursday night, when his retired number will be unveiled along Lambeau Field’s north façade. Quarterback Bart Starr, once in ill health, will witness it at halftime.

“Let’s be honest,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

If that emotion is supposed to affect the Bears, it won’t.

They’ll be in the locker room.

“I don’t think we’ll be out there at halftime to witness that,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “So I think we should be O.K.”

In the Bears’ storied rivalry with the Packers, few current players can claim to have played the legendary quarterback.

Kicker Robbie Gould is the only one who was in Chicago while Favre was in Green Bay. No current Bears defender chased him — whether Favre was a Packer, Jet or Viking —while weaving navy and orange.

Only 20 players on the Bears’ active roster were even in the league at the same time as Favre, and eight of those were rookies during the quarterback’s final season in 2010.

Julius Peppers called Favre “one of the great players to ever play” this week — but he’s a member of the Packers now.

When Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Roberto Garza left the Bears in the offseason, they took with them among the Bears’ last links to the rival gunslinger.

The remaining Bears are more likely to have seen Favre hawking jeans or razors on television than starting an NFL-record 298 games.

From the Cowboys sideline, cornerback Alan Ball saw the unofficial passing of the torch to Aaron Rodgers when Favre was injured in 2007. Favre returned to play that season, but left the Packers in the offseason.

“He put the ball in some places, some windows,” Ball said. “Even if you dare a guy to — he took that dare.”

Vic Fangio took that dare — and lost — in the NFC title game after the 1996 season. Favre beat the Panthers, for whom he was the defensive coordinator, 30-13.

“He hammered a throw in there on the sideline between the corner and the safety that I don’t think anyone else could’ve made,” said Fangio, who would later golf with Favre at Pro Bowls. “It was like a 40-yard laser …

“He’s a hell of a guy and it’s a deserving honor.”

Favre is one of the all-time greats, Bears defensive lineman Ziggy Hood said, even if his skill set was decidedly swashbuckling. He led the league in interceptions three times.

“You go against the Bradys and the Mannings,” he said. “Favre, he’s on another island by himself.”

Hood plans to say tell his grandchildren he sacked Favre — even though he didn’t when his Steelers played the Vikings in 2009.

Told they could look up the box score, Hood joked he’d tell them a penalty wiped out the stat.

“They ain’t never going to know the difference,” he said, smiling.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com