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Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

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Solomon Thomas gives Ziggy Ansah his blessing to wear No. 94

Sep 25, 2020 at 1:13 PM--

New San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ezekiel Ansah had been practicing this week while wearing a No. 98 jersey. That number, of course, belongs to defensive end Ronald Blair, who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list with a knee injury.

That was only temporary.

When Ansah takes the field on Sunday against the New York Giants, the veteran pass rusher will be wearing the same jersey number he wore in Detroit and Seattle — 94.

But wait a minute — that number belongs to former first-round pick Solomon Thomas, who played as recently as this past weekend. It turns out that Thomas, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury, gave Ansah his blessing.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained that Ansah initially had to wear No. 98 because there just aren't enough numbers available. That's the cost of being part of a franchise with such a rich history.

"We just have an issue with retired numbers on our team," Shanahan explained on Friday. "That's why training camp is always tough for us. We just retired too many numbers. We'll see how that keeps going."

Shanahan added that the 49es expect Blair to return this season.

"Solly, obviously him going on IR for the year, that made that (number) available," Shanahan continued. "Ziggy was real cool about it because that's his number. He called Solly and asked him if he could do it, and Solly was honored to tell him that it was no problem, and really helped him out with that."

The 49ers have paused on retiring numbers. They already have 12 out of commission. That is tied with the New York Giants — who the 49ers coincidentally play on Sunday — for the second-most in the NFL. The Chicago Bears lead the league with 14.

The last number to be retired belonged to Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. The 49ers have no plans to add to their total anytime soon, instead opting to add players to their team Hall of Fame and displaying the numbers of those honored prominently at Levi's Stadium.

"Retiring a number requires a pretty Herculean effort to get there, which it should," York told The Athletic last year. "With a ring of honor, I think you can honor more players that way. Again, if there's a specific reason to retire somebody's jersey, it doesn't preclude you from doing that."

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