Aldon Smith returns to limited role in 49ers’ defense

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Outside linebacker Aldon Smith played every defensive snap for the 49ers just two days after his DUI arrest in September. On Sunday, after practing for a full week upon his return from a voluntary leave of absence to seek treatment for substance abuse, Smith was a part-time player in the 49ers’ 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Smith sat out the entire first quarter and then played as part of the 49ers’ nickel pass-rush in the final three quarters while Dan Skuta saw the bulk of the action in base situations.

When asked if he was OK with his role, Smith answered, “Not really.” After all, Smith was voted as the 49ers’ team MVP last season. And he entered the game as the 49ers’ leader in sacks with 4.5 in three games. Coach Jim Harbaugh said late in the week that Smith looked good during practices. Harbaugh said any decision on Smith's playing time would be a football decision. Yet, Smith did not see anywhere near his usual amount of playing time.

“I’m a competitor,” Smith said, “and I want to be on the field, but whatever works. The season is long, so we’ll see how it goes.

“I don’t really call those shots. I just put my clothes on, put my cleats on and play.”