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49ers' Linebacker Aldon Smith Expected to Play Sunday

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) -- It appears as though the San Francisco 49ers will be getting back one of their best players on either side of the ball as linebacker Aldon Smith is expected to play for the team on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

"I'm sure he will play some," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Thursday. "Not sure how much."

Smith has missed the past five games as he had checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic for alcohol abuse. it was unknown whether or not Smith would return to the team, but now he appears ready to get back on the field.

On Wednesday, Smith participated in his first full practice with the team since he left on September 23.

Despite the loss of Smith for over half the season, the 49ers defense ranks third overall in the NFL. The team is 5-0 without him, but his presence will be more then welcomed back. Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Since entering the NFL in 2011, the 24-year-old has accumulated 38 sacks.

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