Holmes returns to Chiefs after nearly two-year absence

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Priest Holmes completed his improbable comeback Sunday, returning to the Kansas City Chiefs' lineup nearly two years after a serious neck injury threatened the three-time Pro Bowl running back's career.

Holmes, once a dynamic runner who became the franchise's career leader in yards rushing and touchdowns, was added to the Chiefs' roster and activated for the first time since Oct. 30, 2005, for their road game against the rival Oakland Raiders.

After watching the Chiefs' first two series while wearing his helmet on the sideline, Holmes entered the game on the third play of Kansas City's third drive, shortly before the first quarter ended. He caught a screen pass from Damon Huard, but was tackled by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for a 6-yard loss.

Even that loss was a huge gain for the 34-year-old Holmes. He hadn't played since absorbing a vicious hit from San Diego's Shawne Merriman, causing the neck injury for a player already bedeviled by a knee injury and a previous hip problem.

Even Chiefs coach Herm Edwards -- who took over the club last season -- figured Holmes' career was over when the veteran wasn't able to return for 2006, spending the season on the physically unable to perform list.

But Holmes surprised the Chiefs by reporting to training camp this summer. After realizing his comeback was worth exploring, the club placed him back on the physically-unable-to-perform list, keeping him out of full practices during camp and the first six weeks of the regular season.

Once Holmes returned to regular practice last Wednesday, the Chiefs had three weeks to evaluate him, but Edwards apparently saw what he needed to see.

The Chiefs even traded backup running back Michael Bennett to Tampa Bay for two draft picks earlier in the week, a move that cleared a roster spot to be filled by Holmes.

Kansas City apparently intends to use Holmes as a third-down back behind Larry Johnson, who became one of the NFL's elite ball carriers during Holmes' absence.

After signing as an unheralded free agent from Baltimore, Holmes enjoyed a sublime 4½-year stretch with the Chiefs from 2001-05, rushing for a club-record 5,933 yards and 76 TDs. His 83 total TDs also are a franchise best.

Johnson had 3,539 yards rushing over the past two seasons, carrying the Kansas City offense in Holmes' absence.

At least one brave fan wore Holmes' red No. 31 jersey in a sea of silver-and-black shirts in the Coliseum's Black Hole.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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