(Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans dominated the National Football League Pro Bowl selections on Wednesday, sending nine and eight players respectively to the game.
Six of the 49ers named to the NFC squad were on defense, including linebackers Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis along with strong safety Donte Whitner and free safety Dashon Goldson. Lineman Justin Smith is the other defensive player from the San Francisco team selected.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named starter for the game that will be played in Honolulu on January 27, a week before the Super Bowl.
Rodgers, named the NFC starter for the second consecutive year, will be backed up Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III and the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan.
The Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson, who has already broken the single season receiving record, headlines a receiving corps that includes Atlanta’s Julio Jones, the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz and the Chicago Bears’ Brandon Marshall.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is closing in the single season rushing record will share the running back duties with San Francisco’s Frank Gore and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.
The AFC will be led by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was named to his 12th Pro Bowl team.
The four-time NFL most valuable player leads the AFC in touchdown passes (34) and passer rating (103.7) and will be backed up by the New England Patriots Tom Brady, an eight-time All-Star selection and the Houston Texans Matt Schaub.
All three quarterbacks will have familiar targets, with Texans Andre Johnson, Patriots’ Wes Welker and Manning’s former-Indianapolis Colts team mate Reggie Wayne earning selection at wide receiver along with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green.
The AFC defense will feature a ferocious pass rush with the Broncos’ Elvis Dumervil, Miami Dolphins’ Cameron Wake and Texans’ J.J. Watt selected as defensive ends while Denver’s Von Miller and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tamba Hali anchor the linebacking corps.
Players from teams that make the Super Bowl will drop out of the Pro Bowl and be replaced.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Greg Stutchbury