Smith, out since Sept. 30 with a separated shoulder, went through his second full day of practice Thursday, leading the 49ers' first-team offense with no apparent discomfort.
He hasn't played since injuring his right shoulder on the third play of San Francisco's 23-3 loss to Seattle. Nolan nearly used Smith last week against the New York Giants, but elected to hold out the former No. 1 overall draft pick.
"It's not so much my confidence in him, it's his confidence in taking reps (in practice)," Nolan said. "I expect him to play well, and he looked good. He looked healthy today."
San Francisco is 0-3 since Smith's injury, with Sunday's visit from the Saints looming as a key moment in the season.
Running back Frank Gore also expects to play Sunday despite a sprained ankle. Gore was limited in practice for the second straight day, mostly confining his workouts to individual drills.
"It was all right, and it'll get better day by day," said Gore, who has just 394 yards rushing after leading the NFC last year. "We'll just wrap it up, and I'll try to go out there and play on it."
Left tackle Jonas Jennings is unlikely to play after injuring his ankle last week, with Adam Snyder expected to replace him. Receiver Darrell Jackson also missed his second day of practice Thursday with a quadriceps injury.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press