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Niners place Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea on I.R.

As if the San Francisco 49ers' season wasn't dismal enough, they are now losing one of their few remaining defensive stars.

The 49ers announced Friday that Antoine Bethea has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The veteran safety reportedly went down with a torn pecotral in Thursday night's loss to the Seahawks, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports.

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson will be activated from the suspension list to replace Bethea on the roster.

Voted San Francisco's MVP by the coaches last season, Bethea earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl in January. Although he hasn't had quite the same impact this year, the 49ers will miss his experience and run support in a young secondary.

Second-round rookie Jaquiski Tartt is the favorite to replace Bethea opposite Eric Reid.

The 49ers will have to make a decision on Bethea's future next offseason. Due $4.5 million in his age-32 season, he may be viewed as a luxury if Tartt impresses in the final two months of what is shaping up as a lost year for a rebuilding team.

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