Carolina Panthers star optimistic over return

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith is adamant that he will play in Sunday's divisional play-off game against San Francisco 49ers.

The 34-year-old has been out of action since December after straining his PCL, but believes he will be involved in this weekend's match after completing a light workout on Monday.

"It's not about, 'Can I go?' It's 'how confident do I feel when I am going?'" Smith was quoted as saying by "I will play Sunday. It's about how much of that do I don't worry about the knee. That's when the confidence increases."

Following Monday's workout, Smith now plans to practice with the team on Wednesday, as he completes his three-week recovery.

"I did a good job [Monday], so we're going to see how tomorrow goes and I'll be practicing on Wednesday," he added. "Just got to build up that muscle memory. Had that fluid [in the knee]. The injury caused some kind of trauma in there, so just trying to work through that. I should be fine for Sunday, though."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera praised the positive attitude of Smith, who is the team's all-time leading receiver.

"I do love Steve's enthusiasm. I do love who Steve is," Rivera commented. "You can't duplicate that. He's a special guy. Steve will find a way to be effective and make things happen."

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