Written by AJ Willingham, CNN

San Francisco, California has a unique passion for sport in a nation where small and big cities compete for sports culture. The city has had its fair share of famous athletes over the years, all of whom were christened by the likes of San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh.

While names and jerseys used to be all the rage, a lot of players have simply passed through the city since the team was founded in 1946, but -- alas -- the "49ers" moniker remains ingrained in the city's history.

Getting the nickname

According to the team's web site, there are several theories about the origin of the San Francisco 49ers.

The team is first connected to New York-born quarterback Walter Payton, who played for the 49ers during the 1985 season. Then in 1986, in the meeting of the SF 49ers against the St. Louis Cardinals, Walsh introduced himself to defensive lineman Leonard Smith and the rest is history.

The nickname was born in the mid-1940s, after a poor man got the idea to apply his surname to one of the teams, meaning the San Francisco expansion franchise was named the 49ers.

The 49ers famously overcame the team's name, becoming a powerhouse during the 1970s and winning seven of the next eight Super Bowls, all while starring the likes of Joe Montana, Roger Craig and Jerry Rice.

Sports tradition

Even though football has its headquarters in the north, the Bay Area has enjoyed its share of local heroes, and the 49ers are just one of the sports teams that embody the region's fandom.

The San Francisco Giants have won four World Series since moving to the city, the Warriors have three NBA Championships and the soccer team the Earthquakes have also dominated the sport in their home base.

A Pro Skate company is called Pro-Am, while the Oakland Raiders play in Oakland -- and that's just the official sports team in the city.

The New York Giants and Washington Redskins are the respective Giants and Redskins of the Eastern and Western seaboard and the Denver Broncos are not just a football team, but also a company called XCOR Aerospace that aims to build a manned spacecraft.