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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers may get a glimpse into their future at wide receiver this Sunday.

Rookie Dante Pettis, their wide-receiver heir apparent, most likely will return from a knee injury and might even start. That’s because veteran Pierre Garcon will probably miss Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a knee injury of his own, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. He spoke to the media at a press conference on Wednesday.

Pettis, 23, injured his knee Sept. 30 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He practiced Wednesday for the first time since leaving the Chargers game on the back of a cart.

Garcon, 32, did not practice Wednesday. He sat out with a knee injury he played through the past two weeks. He gained only 42 receiving yards combined in those games.

Garcon is having one of the worst seasons of his career. He’s coming off a neck fracture which forced him to miss eight games last season. Now, he’s averaging only 32.9 receiving yards per game, catching just 52.5 percent of his targets, and has zero touchdown catches.

“Pierre got a lot more opportunities last year before he got hurt,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “I was expecting him to come on pretty strong here in the recent weeks, but he’s been battling through some tough stuff. That’s why he’s not in there today at practice. He’ll probably be doubtful for the game this week. In order for him to be at full strength, his knee needs to heal up. If it does, he’ll have much better opportunities to help us.”

The 49ers are desperate for help at wide receiver. Their receivers caught just four passes during the 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.

“We had double coverage,” explained Marquise Goodwin, who caught two passes for just 24 yards. “And the plays that we worked on during the week just didn’t suit what we had to go against (on defense).”

Goodwin said he faces double coverage every week. He is the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver and most explosive player on offense. Opposing defenses naturally focus on shutting him down.

One of the other 49ers receivers must step up and draw coverage away from Goodwin. Pettis could be that receiver on Sunday.

“Dante’s a big-time guy to have back for us,” said quarterback C.J. Beathard. “He poses threats, whether it be his speed or route running. He’s got good hands. It’s nice to have another good receiver thrown in the mix.”

The 49ers traded up to take Pettis in the second round of this year’s draft. He played the first four games of the season and caught just three passes. But he averaged a whopping 32 yards per reception, and caught a touchdown pass. He made big plays.

He injured his knee returning a punt Week 4 against the Chargers. He caught the punt at the 49ers’ 18-yard line, ran to his left, stopped, hesitated, ran backward to the 14-yard line and got tackled by Jatavis Brown, who landed on Pettis’ leg.

“I thought it was very bad,” Pettis said. “I didn’t know what happened. A guy was on the back of my leg, and my knee was in the ground so my leg was bent, and he just twisted me over. I couldn’t move my leg at first. It was extremely bad the next day. They were saying everything was good, but my knee was swelling up. I don’t normally swell up at all. I was nervous because of that.”

The MRI showed no structural damage to Pettis’ knee. Still, the injury lingered for three weeks.

“A few days ago, I started doing some 80-yard runs,” Pettis said. “I opened up my stride and it felt good. I didn’t feel anything pulling in the back of my leg. That was the first time.”

Pettis seems ready to rejoin a receiving corps that has struggled without him. None of the 49ers’ receivers has caught more than 21 passes this season. Goodwin has caught only 11 passes — he missed two games and most of a third with a deep thigh bruise. Now he’s healthy, as are the rest of the 49ers’ young receivers.

“We’ve had a different lineup every single game,” Shanahan said. “We haven’t had much consistency with who’s out there. We’ve had to mix and match. Our guys have been up and down. Our guys have been battling injuries. I know Pierre is starting to take a step back with his injuries.

“It was good to get Marquise Goodwin back. It was good to get Trent Taylor back last week. I’m excited to get Dante back out there. Hopefully he has a healthy week of practice and we can ease him and get him going throughout the rest of the year. The more we can keep the same three guys out there, the better we’ll all get.”

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