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Honoring rivalries: Packers at Bears to open 2019 schedule

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers passes as Isaiah Irving #47 of the Chicago Bears closes in at Soldier Field on December 16, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.The Bears defeated the Packers 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — As part of the celebration of its 100th season, the NFL will break from tradition and feature the Packers vs. the Bears in its season opener Sept. 5.

Usually, the Super Bowl champion is the home team for the prime-time opener, but the league wants to salute historic rivalries in 2019. None fits better than Chicago-Green Bay. The teams have met 200 times since 1921, when the Bears were the Chicago Staleys. Green Bay leads the series 97-95-6 in the regular season, with the clubs splitting two postseason games.

Staging the Thursday night game at Chicago’s Soldier Field — even if it is a modernized version of the stadium — adds to the theme.

This will be the first time since 2003 the Super Bowl champion has not hosted the opener. New England instead will open at home in the prime-time game Sunday night, Sept. 8. The opponent has not yet been determined. The full schedule will be announced next month.

“With the 100th season, we want to do something to kick it off in a special way,” said Hans Schroder, the league’s chief operating officer of media. “We’re celebrating the Bears, one of the original member clubs, in their 100th season, and the Packers are in their 101st. It’s an iconic matchup.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel invoked the name of George Halas, the team’s founder, in welcoming the news.

“George ‘Papa Bear’ Halas and the NFL’s co-founders probably didn’t imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world,” Emanuel said in a statement. “But that’s what their vision achieved. Chicago — the most American of American cities — is the perfect venue for this game.”

Schroeder and Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer, outlined other plans for the 100th season: NFL Films will select the 100 greatest teams, plays, games, characters and game changers; an all-time team is being chosen and will be featured in a TV series; Peyton Manning will talk to fans around the country about the history of the NFL for another television series.

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