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Niners nearly had Blount, who's shredding defenses as a Buc

SAN FRANCISCO -- LeGarrette Blount nearly joined the 49ers before changing his mind, calling coach Mike Singletary directly to tell him he was instead headed to Tennessee.

The reason: San Francisco's crowded depth chart at running back behind starter Frank Gore.

"Jeff Fisher was a better salesman than I was," Singletary joked of the Titans' coach.

Turns out, Blount is wracking up yards for the 49ers' next opponent as a running rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who come to Candlestick Park on Sunday hoping for just their second win in 13 tries in the stadium and first since 1980.

The undrafted Blount is the Bucs' leading rusher with 75 carries for 359 yards and four touchdowns -- coming up big for surprising Tampa Bay, which acquired Blount off waivers after Tennessee cut him in September.

There are no hard feelings on Singletary's part. He respects Blount for contacting him, rather than having his agent make the call to the coach as some players would.

Even if Blount went back on his word.

"Yeah, just like a recruit," Singletary said of the commitment. "I understand that. The thing I told him at the time was: 'I appreciate you calling me back. I appreciate you not having your agent call me or me hearing it tomorrow.' The fact he called me back and said: 'Coach, you know what? I've got reservations, and this is why.' I told him, 'I'm not going to try and talk you out of it, I appreciate you calling me back, and best of luck to you.'"

Now these two will square off in a game that means so much to both sides. At 3-6, the 49ers have some momentum with three wins in four games following an 0-5 start. They are still very much in the chase in the underachieving NFC West despite the lousy beginning.

Blount would like nothing more than to move past that infamous punch from September 2009 while at the University of Oregon in a season-opening game at Boise State. With each positive step he takes in the NFL, perhaps that day will become closer.

Joining Tampa Bay was yet another chance.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris knows Blount is working each day to repair his reputation and find a way to be judged again based on his on-field performance and no longer that night he lost his cool.

Blount was released by the Titans despite rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns during the preseason -- and Tennessee largely wishes it still had him. Blount's draft prospects plunged after Oregon suspended him for eight games during his senior season for throwing the punch to Byron Hout's jaw on national television.

"All I can speak about is what he's done since he's been here. And he's trying to get over that," Morris said. "Every time he puts up a big run or any time he does anything, everyone wants to (talk about) the punch. And that's not what he's about. And that's not who he is. He's got a fresh start. This is the turning point, and he's got a chance to capitalize on it right now. I think he's going to take advantage of his opportunities."

Singletary has no doubt in his mind. He wishes Blount well, just not Sunday on the opposite sideline.

Blount is Singletary's kind of player -- tough, goes hard every snap.

"That's why I like him. He's a big physical guy, runs hard, and he's got a little edge to him," Singletary said. "So it seems like he's having a good season, having a nice impact on their team, and that's good to see. I'm happy for him."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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