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Justin Smith returns to San Francisco 49ers practice

The biggest injury-related news in the NFL comes from a team that isn't even playing this weekend.

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San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith returned to practice Thursday for the first time since he tore his triceps Dec. 16. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area later reported that Smith was limited in practice and wore a black brace on his left elbow.

Smith said after practice that he expects to play in the 49ers' divisional-round game next week.

"I think it's just a matter of getting out there and going," Smith told CSN Bay Area. "You just go out there and play until you can't and be ready. I feel like I'll be ready.

"I really wasn't trying to pay attention to it (in practice), honestly. You can't worry about it in the game, so try not to worry about it now and go on from there."

Smith told The Sacramento Bee last week that he'd be ready to roll for the playoffs despite the injury, and that appears to be the case. Smith has made four consecutive Pro Bowls, and the 49ers' defense didn't look the same without him late in the season.

Just yards away from Smith's return to the practice field, the 49ers held a rare kicker competition before the playoffs. Newly signed kicker Billy Cundiff made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts during practice, according to The Associated Press. Struggling incumbent David Akers went 16 of 21. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has more than a week to decide who he wants to roll with at the position in the divisional round.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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