SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith proved he can make all the throws during practice Wednesday, and he claims his injured right shoulder is ready to take the hits.
The only thing standing between the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and his old job is coach Mike Nolan, who will wait a little longer before choosing a starter for Sunday's game against New Orleans.
Smith took every snap with the 49ers' first-team offense Wednesday, his first full day of team practice since separating his shoulder on the third play of San Francisco's 23-3 loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Smith looked strong and confident, showing little of the indecision that factored into Nolan's decision to keep him on the bench last weekend.
"It felt good to be back out in the huddle and not sitting back and watching," Smith said. "As the day went on, my arm felt better and better, and I think it will feel even better (today)."
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Though Nolan didn't announce a starter, he said Smith will start if the third-year pro is able to suit up.
Also Wednesday, Nolan said Ashley Lelie will be in the starting lineup at receiver if Darrell Jackson (quadriceps injury) can't play.
LEFTWICH TO HAVE SURGERY -- Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich underwent surgery on his right ankle and will be out three to four weeks, giving Joey Harrington another chance as the starter. In his first start for the Falcons, Leftwich sustained a high ankle sprain against New Orleans in a loss Sunday.
CHARGERS RELOCATE -- The San Diego Chargers, some of them forced from their homes by the threat of wildfires, worked out at the Cardinals' training facility in Tempe, Ariz., and awaited word on where and when their next game will be played.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders planned to decide today whether the Chargers will be able to play Houston as scheduled Sunday at their Qualcomm Stadium home. Other sites being considered were Dallas and Houston. An estimated 10,000 people were at the Qualcomm evacuation center Wednesday.
NFL AIDS RETIRED PLAYERS -- The NFL added $10 million to its medical fund for retired players, designating the money for joint replacement surgery, cardiovascular screening and assisted living. The sum will be added to a $7 million fund agreed upon in July by the league and its players' union. It will be supplemented by money from player fines, plus contributions from the NFL Players Association and other retired players groups.
DOLPHINS' THOMAS INJURED -- Middle linebacker Zach Thomas might not make the Dolphins' trip to London (Miami plays the Giants there on Sunday) because he was in a minor car accident. "There's potential for whiplash and that is what we're looking into, to my knowledge," Miami coach Cam Cameron said.
GOT 'EM ALL ... BUT ONE -- A week before the Colts and Patriots face each other in that highly anticipated showdown, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have a chance to set up the perfect matchup with an almost perfect scenario this weekend: If each wins (Peyton plays Carolina; Brady plays Washington), and keeps his respective team unbeaten, the NFL says they will become the first quarterbacks in league history to defeat 31 teams.
VICK DOG SUPPLIER PLEADS GUILTY -- A man who sold a champion pit bull to suspended NFL quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting operation pleaded guilty in Richmond, Va., to a federal dogfighting charge. Oscar Allen entered the plea to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in illegal gambling and to sponsor a dog in animal fighting -- the same charge to which Vick and his three fellow defendants in the Bad Newz Kennels operation pleaded guilty. Vick is expected to be sentenced in December. Allen faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
QUICK HITTERS -- Bengals receiver Chris Henry returned to practice with the NFL's permission Wednesday, allowing him to work back into shape while serving the last two games of his suspension. Henry has declined all interviews since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first eight games. The third-year receiver has been charged in four criminal cases and drawn two suspensions from the league for violating its conduct policy. ... The struggling Rams could get a boost from the return of Steven Jackson (partially torn groin) after the running back practiced. Coach Scott Linehan said unless he suffers a setback during the week, Jackson will be on the field when the winless Rams host Cleveland on Sunday.