After the San Francisco 49ers beat the New York Giants, 7-3, last month, the players didn't share the customary post-game handshakes.
Instead, Giants quarterback Phil Simms and 49ers safety Ronnie Lott jawed at each other, face mask to face mask, before they were pulled apart.
Both players have denied reports that Lott called Simms a "choker," but, in any case, they obviously weren't inviting each other over to visit.
The Simms-Lott incident was the latest example of the acrimony between these teams.
The next chapter will be written tomorrow, when they collide in the National Football Conference title game at Candlestick Park, their fifth playoff meeting in 10 years.
This is the kind of rivalry in which the teams trade nasty words off the field and cheap shots on it.
Although Simms won't be able to challenge Lott tomorrow because he's sidelined with a bad arch, the Giants still feel they have a score or two to settle with the 49ers.
Most teams tend to give them a lot of respect for winning four Super Bowls, but the Giants frequently complain about the 49ers' style of play.
Defensive lineman Erik Howard said this week that offensive tackle Bubba Paris tried to cut-block him 20 times when the teams played last month.
Howard, asked how he handles that tactic, said he "just steps over his fat butt." Paris weighs more than 300 pounds.
The accusations between the clubs date to the 1985 season, when quarterback Joe Montana told a San Francisco writer before a playoff game against the Giants that Simms was "too cocky." The Giants won the game, 17-3.
The next season, the Giants routed the 49ers, 49-3, as Jim Burt, now a 49er, knocked Montana out of the game in the second quarter. The 49ers complained of defensive back Kenny Hill's spearing of wide receiver Jerry Rice. Hill was fined by the league.
In 1988, the Giants needed the 49ers to beat the Los Angeles Rams in their final regular-season game to get them in the playoffs. The game was meaningless to the 49ers, who had clinched their division title.
Simms was watching the Rams rout the 49ers, 38-16, on television when a New York writer called him. "I'm just sitting here watching the 49ers lay down like dogs," Simms said.
When the teams met last season in a Monday night game, the 49ers distributed copies of Simms' quote around the locker room.
The 49ers won the game, 34-24, but it just fueled the rivalry when Wesley Walls broke Lawrence Taylor's leg on a play the Giants insisted was a cheap shot and so far away from the ball that the instant replay cameras were able to show only a wide-angle shot.
Burt took the blame for last month's Simms-Lott jawing match, saying he told Lott before the game that Simms had said three years ago that Lott was overrated and was helped by the 49ers' zone defense.
Simms went into the 49ers' locker room after the game, supposedly to smooth things out with Lott, and has declined to comment on the incident.
But former Giant Joe Morris said Simms believes he's not appreciated because he never has had the offense to work with that Montana has.
"Phil feels like he doesn't get the respect he deserves and that Montana gets too much. Look at the people Montana has around him and look at the people that Phil had. Phil produced miracles with what he had. Montana had more talent," Morris said.
The Giants jumped on the respect theme when CBS commentator Merlin Olsen said during the 49ers' victory over the Washington Redskins last Saturday that the 49ers were worried more about the Redskins than any other team in the playoffs.
Safety Myron Guyton said, "Even if a team doesn't have respect for you, you don't expect them to say something like that."
Giants coach Bill Parcells tried to downplay the hostility between the teams this week.
"Any time you've been on top as long as the 49ers have, a lot of teams want to be the ones to knock them off. I think that's only natural," he said.
The Giants still were taking verbal potshots at the 49ers this week, although they didn't want to be identified.
One Giant told a Newsday writer: "They're one of the dirtiest, cheapest teams around. They don't need to do that kind of stuff, the chop-blocking and leg-whipping. They're a good team, and they don't need it. Some of the stuff they pull, it's ridiculous."
Another Giant said: "They're cheap shots, and we remember them. We remember when Wesley Walls leg-whipped Taylor and broke his leg last year. That stuff stays with you. Everyone says the 49ers are so great, but when they do stuff like that, it makes you realize that sometimes they don't have any class."
Class or no class, the 49ers do have four Super Bowl rings.
The Giants would like nothing better than to stop them from getting a fifth.
Before the 1985 playoff game won by the Giants, 17-3, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana said his New York counterpart Phil Simms was "too cocky."
* The Giants' Kenny Hill was fined for spearing Jerry Rice in a 49-3 playoff victory over the 49ers in the 1986 season.
* Simms said he watched the 49ers "lay down like dogs" in their 1988 regular-season finale against the Rams, a loss that knocked the Giants out of the playoffs.
* The Giants accused Wesley Walls of taking a cheap shot in breaking Lawrence Taylor's leg in the 1989 season.
* Simms and Ronnie Lott jawed at each other after the 49ers' 7-3 victory in December.
* Going into tomorrow's game, the Giants say the 49ers don't respect them.