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Posted: Wednesday August 29, 2012 2:28PM ; Updated: Wednesday August 29, 2012 2:28PM

Rivera expects WR Smith back to practice Sunday

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Steve Smith
Steve Smith was revitalized playing with Cam Newton last year.
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
NFL Team Page

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers coach Ron Rivera says he expects five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith will return to practice Sunday and play in the Sept. 9 season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rivera says Smith is "improving" after developing a foot infection earlier in the week.

Smith, who didn't practice, is among several key players sitting out Thursday night's preseason finale against the Steelers. Linebacker Jon Beason, offensive tackle Jordan Gross, running back Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert are also out. Rivera isn't ruling anyone out at this point for the season opener.

Rivera says his starters will see "minimal" action against the Steelers, if they play at all.

The Panthers (No. 20 in the AP Pro32) trim their roster to 53 players on Friday.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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