Quarterback Jim McMahon, selected one day earlier as the starter for Chicago's NFC Championship showdown with San Francisco, admitted Saturday that the flap over the job has grown loud enough to rattle even his usually unflappable nerves.

"It's always been disappointing. The last three or four weeks have been especially tough," McMahon said following a brief workout, making his first public comment on the controversy as the Bears finished preparations for Sunday's NFC Championship showdown with the San Francisco 49ers."There's a lot of trade rumors going around, and I don't know what they're going to do. So if this does happen to be my last game in Chicago," he added in an interview with WBBM-TV, "I want it to be a good one."

If so, it would come at the end of a long, dry spell for McMahon, who took the 1985 Bears to the Super Bowl and became a millionaire in the bargain by selling a carefully crafted image as the "punky QB" to advertisers and the media.

Constant injuries and successive playoff losses to the Washington Redskins in the intervening years have taken much of the luster off the man, but nothing so much as the emergence of backup quarterback Mike Tomczak.

McMahon started the season healthy, but was sidelined with a knee injury against New England in Week 9 and didn't get his starter's job back until Friday, when Coach Mike Ditka ended the drawn-out drama by restoring the seven-year veteran to the top of the depth chart.

But some damage already has been done. Rumors that McMahon was on the trade block and relegated to a backup role started the ball rolling and Ditka's endorsement Friday wasn't exactly ringing. He wouldn't say much more about the decision other than McMahon was the "healthiest" of the two - and his coyness about selecting one over the other left both hanging.

"It surprised me too," McMahon said. "Mike had been taking the first snap (in practice) all week and I figured he was going to start. But I'm happy with the decision and I think it's the right one. I haven't lost to them yet."