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Michael Crabtree at 49ers practice after leg injury

In news that may rival sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot in terms of rarity, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree returned on the practice field on Monday.

Crabtree has missed the last seven practices with an injury to his lower right leg, but was in pads and in possession of his helmet for the beginning of Monday's practice. After initially working with a strength coach, Crabtree eventually joined his fellow receivers for position drills, Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee reports.

By returning to practice, Crabtree appears to be on pace to accomplish something he has never done in the NFL: Play in a preseason game.

Crabtree did not sign his rookie contract until October 7, 2009 and missed the 2010 preseason with a neck injury. Crabtree underwent foot surgery and missed all of last year's training camp. Despite the inactivity in August, Crabtree's production has steadily increased, establishing career-highs with 72 receptions for 874 yards in 2011.

The 49ers open up their 2012 preseason against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park on Friday night.

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