- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson, sidelined since Week 2 with a hamstring injury, returned to practice Wednesday and expressed optimism about returning to game action as early as Sunday.
Jackson didn't commit to playing against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend but seemed eager to return.
The veteran was asked how close he was to 100 percent.
"I don't think any time after Week 1 you're 100 percent," Jackson said. "I think that I'm feeling, to this point, well enough to give it a go and be out there and be effective, like Day 1."
Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday that he doesn't expect Jackson to participate in a full practice immediately. Jackson could be limited all week, so his game status appears questionable at this point.
But Jackson's teammates seem ecstatic to see him return.
"It's a good thing for us, to have Steven back at practice, to get him out there, to start seeing what he can do," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Whenever he does get back out on the game field for us, that's going to help. He's a great player."
Regardless, Jackson has to see how his hamstring reacts in practice before declaring himself ready to play in an actual game, no matter how optimistic he might be.
"The game is Sunday. I'm aware of that; the team's aware of that," Jackson said. "But at the same time, I'm here to make a difference, and we're going to see if I can do that."
Jackson suffered the injury in Week 2 against his former team -- the St. Louis Rams. He has 14 carries for 77 yards and six receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown in 45 offensive snaps this season.
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