Khalil Mack is coming back to the Bay Area this weekend as a visitor, though he'll play a bit farther south to call it a homecoming.
The former Raider returns to play the 49ers on Sunday at Levi's Stadium. The region's the same, but the opponent and venue and local fan base won't add emotion to this return.
If he hadn't been traded to the Chicago Bears this offseason for a compensation package that included two first-round picks, Mack would've played in Santa Clara the Thursday of Week 9, rocking silver and black.
We all know that's not how it worked out. The Raiders dealt him to Chicago on Sept. 1, and now he's leading the NFC North champion Bears into the postseason, with more sacks (12.5) than the entire Raiders team.
This return is informal considering his old team isn't the opponent, but Mack said it will still be nice to be back.
"I love the Bay," Mack said Friday in a media scrum with Chicago reporters, via NBC Sports Chicago. "I was there for four years. (The region) showed a lot of love to me and my family. But that's not the connection with the game I guess, because we're playing the 49ers. But at the same time it's going to be good to get back out there."
Mack won't played the Raiders team that selected him No. 5 overall in 2014 until next season. The Bears are scheduled to play at the Raiders, though it's unlikely at this stage the game will be at Oakland Coliseum.
That game could get shipped abroad, given the Raiders have given away a home game to play in either London or Mexico. Even if it remains domestic, the Raiders are actively looking for other options to play the 2019 season. Oakland Coliseum hasn't been eliminated as a 2019 prospect, but the Raiders are actively considering other venues.
That mean's Monday's game against Denver Broncos could he the last Raiders game ever played in Oakland, with 2019 up in the air and a Las Vegas relocation set for 2020.
Mack has plenty of fond memories playing in that old building.
"Oh man. That place could get loud," Mack said. "Even in bad seasons and bad times, they came in there and they supported the Raiders. It's going to be bittersweet for those guys, I already know."
Mack is deep into his first season with the Bears, and doesn't love answering questions about the Raiders or the infamous trade that sent him to Chicago and secured a record six-year, $141 million contract extension. It's clear he'd rather keep focus on this Bears effort, especially when talking to Chicago press.
He did harken his Raiders roots when asked about how he keeps young Bears players focus on team goals over the individual accolade, crediting veteran teammates on that terrible 2014 team for showing a rookie phenom how to be a pro.
"I had some good OGs, from Charles Woodson to Justin Tuck to Antonio Smith," Mack said. "You've just got to ride the wave of the season and ride the wave of life. You can't get too high and too low. Now I try to instill those values on my young pups…it's about understanding the situation and understanding football."