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The thrilling NFC Championship Game that saw the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 Sunday averaged 55.9 million television viewers nationwide on FOX Sports, up 17 percent from the game in a similar time slot last season.

With a 28.5 national rating and 44 share, it also was the highest rated non-overtime NFC title game since 1997. Viewership peaked at 60.3 million when Richard Sherman deflected a pass to Malcolm Smith for a game-clinching interception.

Seattle led all local markets in viewership with a 53.9 rating and 85 share on KCPQ (Channel 13), followed by San Francisco (47.5/78), Sacramento (46.7/72), Portland (39.5/63) and Milwaukee (38.9/57).

Ratings account for the percentage of households with televisions that are watching a certain program. Shares measure the percentage of TVs in use at the time that are tuned to that program.

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Viewership of the AFC Championship, the early game Sunday between Denver and New England, also was up big from last season with a 28.1 national rating and 51 share, the second-highest marks for an AFC title game in 17 years.

The Broncos’ 26-16 victory averaged 51.3 million viewers nationwide on CBS, up 22 percent from last year.

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