CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A late hit on Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith following a 54-yard touchdown catch nearly caused a fight during the first quarter of Sunday's 30-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The scuffle began after Smith leaped to beat Saints cornerback Jabari Greer to a pass from Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Greer fell to the ground, giving Smith an easy 30-yard run to the end zone. But as Smith coasted the final 5 yards and crossed the goal line, Saints safety Roman Harper sprinted in on the left side and knocked Smith to the ground.
Smith jumped up and flipped the ball to the turf defiantly while players from both sides ran down and began shoving each other. Smith then locked up with Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, shoving him to the ground and holding onto his facemask before the tussle ended.
Harper's late hit was the only penalty called.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press