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USC's Johnson to make his return at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. -- USC running back Stafon Johnson, who had his larynx crushed in a weightlifting accident early in the season, has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl.

The Senior Bowl announced Sunday that Johnson planned to participate in practices and the Jan. 30 showcase game for NFL prospects in Mobile, Ala.

According to a release, Johnson was recently cleared for football activities by doctors.

Johnson has not played since he dropped a barbell with 275 pounds on his neck on Sept. 28. He needed seven hours of reconstructive surgery immediately after the accident.

"This decision was made after extensive conversations with Stafon's family, coaches, medical team and personal trainer so that we were assured of his physical condition and readiness to participate in the Senior Bowl," Steve Hale, the Senior Bowl president, said in a news release.

Johnson finished his Southern California career with 1,552 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"It's just a blessing to get this opportunity," Johnson's uncle, Kregg Anderson, said in a statement from the Senior Bowl. "We need this more than anything. He could go to the combine and do great but so many GMs and coaches really want to know if he can take a hit."

Johnson had three more operations after the initial surgery, but his doctors said that he made a speedy recovery from an accident that could have killed him.

Johnson was able to speak again by mid-November.

"This is a great opportunity for Stafon with all that he's been through and he's excited to play with some of the greatest players in the country," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Johnson had 157 yards, five touchdowns and a 4.9-yard average per carry in four games this season.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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