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Tony Gonzalez to play in Atlanta Falcons' next game

The Atlanta Falcons are close to getting their All-Pro tight end back.

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Coach Mike Smith said Saturday that Tony Gonzalez will return to the team Sunday and play in Atlanta's third preseason game, according to the Falcons' official website. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported earlier Saturday that Gonzalez was traveling to rejoin the Falcons after spending part of the offseason in California.

All along, Gonzalez had been expected to arrive Aug. 17 and play in the Falcons' final two preseason games against the Tennessee Titans (on Aug. 24) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (on Aug. 29) . The Falcons, according to Rapoport, were fine with the 37-year-old tight end missing training camp. Gonzalez stayed out West to see his 12-year-old son, Nikko, play his first season of organized football.

"The Falcons are still overjoyed about having Gonzalez -- a blue-chip free agent expected to retire -- come back," Rapoport wrote last month. "When Gonzalez told the team he'd return, it buoyed spirits. Prior to reaching that decision, however, Gonzalez made commitments to his family, and the organization is allowing him to honor those."

Said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff: "I feel very strongly about it. The fact that he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, there's no issues with this team as far as not being here."

Gonzalez was highly productive last season, hauling in 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. All the Falcons care about is adding him to their high-octane attack before the real games begin.

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