It started with a fistfight in 1921. Now a knockout blow is coming.

Sunday's NFC Championship features the granddaddy of NFL feuds -- the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears. NFL greats Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Brett Favre (pending) were among the 48 Pro Football Hall of Famers who played in this game, along with coaches Vince Lombardi and George Halas. The NFC Championship winner receives the George Halas Trophy and advances to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6. Talk about tradition.

Last week's round of rivalries between Pittsburgh and Baltimore and New England and the New York Jets were nothing compared to the storied meetings of Chicago-Green Bay. Indeed, Washington-Dallas can't even match up.

Chicago leads the 181-game series 92-83-6. Green Bay beat Chicago 10-3 on Jan. 2 to reach the postseason. The Bears' Monday night victory over the Packers earlier in the season helped them win the NFC North title.

It's the first postseason meeting between these teams since the Bears won the 1941 Western Division title -- one week after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Coach Lovie Smith targeted Green Bay upon his 2004 arrival in Chicago. Smith is 8-6 against the Packers after his two predecessors were a combined 3-19.

"It doesn't get any better than to see the Bears and the Packers battling it out for a chance to go to the Super Bowl," Smith said.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy also teaches players about the rivalry.

"We always make a big deal for the first game," he said. "It's important for our rookies, our first year players, to clearly understand the importance and the significance of the Packer-Bear rivalry, so by the second game I think everybody gets it. It's special."

Now Round 3 is everything.

"We don't like them; they don't like us," Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

Said Green Bay center Scott Wells: "As far as a rivalry goes, yeah, there's some hatred there ... but at the same time there's mutual respect in the fact that the games are so close, they're so physical and there's outstanding players on both teams."

McCarthy won't play the "hate" angle. It's not personal -- it's business.

"What's your definition of hate? For me to say 'I hate,' that's ugly," he said. "I understand it's personal and those types of words that might be thrown around. But I respect the way [the Bears] play. They play the right way. We play the right way. But this is about winning championships."

The Bears and Packers have combined for 21 NFL championships, including four Super Bowls. Sunday means everything but is worth nothing should the winner not claim the Super Bowl, too.

Halas and Lombardi wouldn't fight over that at least.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at and on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail