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Sunday showdown
Times photo: Anthony Wahl Don Martin, Monroe, is one local football fan backing the Green Bay Packers as they face the Chicago Bears Sunday. At stake is the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl berth. The game starts at 2 p.m. and can be seen on FOX.
MONROE - So this is it.

The weekend's NFC Championship game between the Packers and the Bears has no shortage of hype - with many saying the showdown between blood rivals for the right to go to the Super Bowl is bigger than, well, the Super Bowl itself.

In a place like Monroe, which straddles the border at the southern tip of Wisconsin, lines are being drawn, plans are being made - and trash is being talked. But is Sunday's showdown at Soldier Field living up to all of the buzz?

Word on the street is "yes."

"I hope the Packers win," said Don Martin, at Martin's Sport Shop downtown. "But you know, there sure are a lot of Bears fans around here. I'm not sure what to say about that."

Martin agreed with most of the professional pundits, however, that it's going to be a close matchup, with serious bragging rights at stake. And clearly, there won't be much else going on in these parts but football watching, come Sunday.

"A group of us are going out to watch the game and cheer on the Packers," said Sherri Johnson of Monroe, who was browsing for cards Thursday at Schultz Pharmacy downtown.

She, too, knows Bears fans in these parts and says all of the back-and-forth between the two sides has been entertaining.

"You know, we're still friends, even though I want the Packers to win," Johnson said. "You've got to have variety of people in your life or what else would you have to be bitter about?"

Across the Square, at Baumgartner's, owner Chris Soukup said he's expecting a full house for Sunday's matchup.

"Who could be friends with Bears fans?" opined one Baumgartner's customer, who nonetheless, admitted that he too knows a few Chicago fans.

Midway through a long winter, it's clear that no matter what happens, the Packers-Bears battle offers something to get really warmed-up about.

"It will be quite a game," said Baumgartner's bartender Jon Koenig. "It's going to be a lot of fun to watch."