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49ers' Aldon Smith returns, vows to stay healthy, clean

  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith fields questions in the team's NFL football practice facility Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Santa Clara, Calif. Smith missed the past five games while undergoing treatment for substance abuse. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

"I'm getting there. Every day's just a step closer to getting to where I want to be," Smith said at his locker after practice. "I've gotten a lot of support, from my family, friends, organization, teammates and everything. And it really says a lot that people care about me outside the field and they care about me as a person."

Smith had been on an indefinite paid leave of absence before being activated to the 53-man roster Thursday, two days after he turned himself in to Santa Clara County authorities on weapons charges.

He met last Wednesday with team officials.

The fearsome pass-rusher is in shape despite a couple of extra pounds gained during his stint at an in-patient treatment center for substance abuse. He was at a facility outside California, he said, while declining to offer further details. He said he returned to the Bay Area on Oct. 28 after entering rehab in late September — and he was away for his 24th birthday Sept. 25.

Defensive teammate and fellow linebacker Patrick Willis is among those who sent periodic text messages to Smith during his time away.

"Aldon has been a guy since he came in who has been very productive for our defense, has been a playmaker for our defense," Willis said. "To get him back is a good thing, then, too, with his absence we were able to develop some depth with some of the other guys. It's really going to be a strong point for us. When you have a guy such as Aldon with his talent, the biggest thing we can do for him is just let him know we're here for him, let him know that we're his teammates, but the main thing is just let him grow on his own."

Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22 and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession.

He apologized for his behavior after the game then later announced he would leave for treatment.

San Francisco (6-2) has won five straight games in impressive fashion without him.

Also in September, Smith and former teammate Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by a Northern California man who said he was shot at a party at Smith's house on June 29, 2012.


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