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Marcus Lattimore returns to practice

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For all but one member of the San Francisco 49ers, it was just another mundane walk-through on a chilly Bay Area morning.

For Marcus Lattimore, it was football redemption.

For the first time since a horrific 2012 knee injury suffered while he was a star running back at South Carolina, Lattimore was on a practice field in a jersey.

"It's a special day," an emotional Lattimore said Thursday during the team's lunch break.

Lattimore capped the day by hitting the field for full practice. Lattimore, taken in the fourth round of the April draft, can practice for the next three weeks before the 49ers must decide whether to activate him or end his season.

He is not expected to play in a game until next year. But it doesn't matter to Lattimore. Thursday was a milestone.

"I never thought I'd get to this day," Lattimore said. "Just being able to practice football is big right now."

Lattimore had this to say about the day he was injured: "I knew I was done. I was done. I looked at my knee and thought I'd never play again. I just knew it. I was thinking about what else I was going to do with my life. Football was a dominant memory for me."

Lattimore tore all the major ligaments in his right knee last October. In 2011, he tore the ACL in his left knee.

Yet, after an intense rehabilitation, the 49ers took a chance on Lattimore. Many scouts felt he was the best pure running back in the draft.

"All the hard working is going to pay off," Lattimore said.