SUWANEE, Ga. -- Before the ink was dry on the four-year, $13 million contract he signed with the Atlanta Falcons last year, cornerback Ray Buchanan talked about how much he looked forward to playing against Jerry Rice.
Buchanan will get his chance Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at 3Com Park in a game that will be televised across much of the country (4:15 p.m., Fox-54).
"I'm looking forward to it," Buchanan said. "I'm real calm and cool during the week, but when the ref blow the whistle, the excitement and adrenaline will take over because you know you're going against the best."
Rice didn't play in either of the two games against Atlanta last year because of a knee injury. But he is back in the lineup now, and he has caught 10 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown through two games.
Buchanan was asked if he thinks he can make life rough on Rice.
"It's rough on him as it is because he's complaining about not getting the ball," Buchanan said. "They spoiled him throughout the last 11 or 12 years, and now he's not getting the ball as much. We just want to go out and keep the pressure on him and not let him catch passes and let him be the smart player he can be."
Rice, touted as the greatest receiver in NFL history, has tortured the Falcons through the years. He has compiled more receptions (140), receiving yards (2,150) and touchdowns (22) against the Falcons than any other team. In a 1990 game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, he caught 13 passes for 225 yards and five touchdowns.
All of which seems to motivated Buchanan, the Falcons' best defensive back.
"My game really rises to the occasion, especially if it's a nationally televised game," Buchanan said. "We haven't gotten too many opportunities to go out there and let grandma and everybody else see how well you can play against one of the best teams."
Former Georgia linebacker Brandon Tolbert, signed to the practice squad Sept. 1, was waived with an injury settlement this week. A seventh-round draft pick by Jacksonville last April, Tolbert was unable to overcome a hamstring injury.
To replace Tolbert on the practice squad, the Falcons signed linebacker Malcolm Hamilton. The 6-1, 235-pound Hamilton was signed by the Washington Redskins last year as a rookie free agent out of Baylor. He spent all of last season on the Redskins practice squad.
Three other linebackers worked out for the team this week -- Purcell Gaskins, who played with the Rams and Panthers; Tyrone Hines, who was on Jacksonville's practice squad last year; and Derrick Strey, who was in Jacksonville's camp this summer.
INTO THE FIRE:
Former Georgia Tech linebacker Keith Brooking, the team's No. 1 pick, will play a key role as the nickel linebacker Sunday.
Because the 49ers throw often throw to their running backs and tight ends in passing situations, Brooking will be placed in some tough pass coverage situations.
"I think Keith was a little injured the past two weeks," coach Dan Reeves said. "Watching him practice (this week), I thought he was closer to being full speed. He had a deep thigh bruise that kept him from being as explosive as we've seen him in the past. He was flying around in practice, and hopefully we can keep him healthy."
In passing situations, the Falcons bring out middle linebacker Jessie Tuggle and strong-side linebacker Craig Sauer and send in Brooking and a fifth defensive back.
Brooking, Cornelius Bennett and strong safety William White have primary coverage on the running backs and tight end.
"Cornelius made an awful lot of plays in the last game (a 17-12 win over Philadelphia)," Reeves said. "It's going to be a challenge for him and Keith because the 49ers really spread the ball around."