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Aldon Smith Sparks Ahmad Brooks in Return

Posted Nov 10, 2013

The All-Pro outside linebacker played sparingly in Sunday's defeat to the Panthers, but his teammates were glad to have him back.

Aldon Smith didn't start, record a tackle or play most of Sunday's game.

But his impact was felt positively in his first game back in seven weeks, a 10-9 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers at Candlestick Park.

Especially if you ask the man who plays his outside linebacker position on the opposite side, Ahmad Brooks.

Brooks recorded a career-high-tying three sacks of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, far from the easiest signal-caller to bring down. He now has 6.5 sacks through nine games. The veteran last recorded three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 14, 2009.

"He's motivation for me to do a good job," Brooks said of Smith. "He's probably the best pass-rusher in the NFL. You got to accept it. That's just how it is. He makes me a better player... I get a chance to watch what he does in the game and just try to implement that in my game as much as possible."

PHOTOS: 49ers vs. Panthers

Brooks now also has 33 sacks in his eight-year career, 31 with San Francisco. The latter number ranks him ninth in franchise history, pushing him past defensive ends Pierce Holt (29.5), Roy Barker (30) and Jeff Stover (30.5).

Of course, having Brooks blitz when Smith is back to his old ways would give the 49ers an enviable combo on the outside. This is part of why Smith's return was so welcomed in the locker room.

"It's special to see a dominant player like that back. We welcomed him back," cornerback Tarell Brown said. "He had limited snaps, but I think his snaps will increase a lot more next week."

Asked why Smith played 11 snaps in his comeback game on Sunday, Jim Harbaugh said he and his staff were fulfilling a plan.

"We were set to use him in nickel situations," the coach said. "My initial feeling: I think he (played) fine. We'll look at it."

Said Smith himself: "I was aware that I wasn't going to play too much."

The 11 snaps were a significant 11. He helped to collapse the pocket on two first-half plays, the second of which preceded Tramaine Brock's interception of Newton.

"I'm a competitor, and I want to be on the field," Smith said. "The season is so long we'll see how it goes."

Dan Skuta started in Smith's place, and he shared time at the spot with rookie Corey Lemonier.

"They've been playing good football for us," inside linebacker Patrick Willis said. "Anytime you can build depth, it's always a good thing. We're just about playing team defense, so whoever's out there, we're counting on them to help us be a better defense."

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