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Austin, Fiammetta practice, hope to provide lift for Cowboys

IRVING, Texas -- Just in time for Sunday's showdown with the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin and fullback Tony Fiammetta returned to practice Wednesday and are expected to play.

Austin has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, and Fiammetta the last three with an undisclosed illness.

"We're encouraged to see them back out there playing football," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

The Cowboys went 2-1 in the three games the two players missed. But the two wins came on game-ending field goals, and the loss was in overtime after missing a potential game-winning field-goal try.

The Cowboys are excited about the two players' return.

"We feel like we have a rejuvenated offense," said Laurent Robinson, who has emerged as the team's top-scoring receiver in Austin's absence. "We're excited about this week and the challenge ahead of us."

Austin, a 1,000-yard receiver each of the last two seasons, was slowed earlier this season by an injury to his left hamstring. He missed two games, played two, then hurt his right hamstring Nov. 6.

"Miles is a Pro Bowl receiver and a very versatile guy," Garrett said. "He can make plays down the field, he can make plays on shorter catches -- break catches and beat you that way. He's also a very good blocker at the receiver position. So I think whenever you have a guy like that out there, teams know about him and will decide to do something to him or not. Guys like that give you an opportunity to open up other parts of your offense."

How important is Fiammetta?

Look at the numbers. DeMarco Murray's numbers.

In the four games that he ran behind holes opened by Fiammetta, Murray averaged 150 yards. In the last three games, all without Fiammetta, Murray had a total of 198 yards, an average of 66 per game.

"He's done a nice job for us in the time he was in the lineup," Garrett said of Fiammetta. "We're excited about the possibility of getting him back."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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