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Aldon Smith: Every day 'a step closer' to 49ers return

Aldon Smith met with the media Tuesday for the first time since leaving the San Francisco 49ers for an out-of-state rehabilitation clinic in September. He said the time away allowed him to clear his head.

"It's been a process since I left," Smith said, according to the Niners' official website. "I'm getting there. Every day is a step closer to where I want to be.

"I've gotten a lot of support, from my family, friends, the organization, teammates and everything," he went on. "It really says a lot that people care about me outside the field, that they care about me as a person. ... We could all look into our lives and find something that we need to work on. I've taken my time and I've done that."

The Niners won all five games on their schedule while Smith was away from the team. Smith was activated to the 53-man roster last Thursday and is practicing with teammates. He was asked about his prospects of playing Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

"It's crossing my mind," Smith said of the prospect of playing. "I'm taking it one day at a time, getting back here being around the guys."

Smith apparently stayed in shape during his time away from the team. Defensive tackle Justin Smith told NFL Media's Omar Ruiz that Aldon Smith is a "freak of nature," referring to the linebacker's ability to get through individual drills without any trouble.

Aldon Smith has spoken with league officials, and Ruiz reported on NFL Network's "Around the League Live" that the third-year pro "seems to be in the clear for now" in terms of league discipline. That, along with two court cases, continue to hang over Smith's head, but the coast is temporarily clear for a return to the lineup.

Consider it a surprise if the 49ers don't take advantage of it.

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