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Former Utah Utes QB Alex Smith takes on role of leader for the 49ers

Published: Thursday, June 2 2011 7:52 p.m. MDT

When 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh began wooing Alex Smith four months ago, it seemed like an odd move.

Harbaugh was the lone voice supporting Smith's return to San Francisco. Everyone else — including Smith — thought it was time for the former No. 1 overall pick to move on.

Harbaugh's actions, however, seem wiser with each passing day. As the NFL lockout drags on, it's becoming clear that preparing for the upcoming season will fall more on the players.

And Smith, a free agent not officially on the team, is taking the lead role for the 49ers players.

Earlier this week, he led a throwing session that included receivers Kyle Williams and Kevin Jurovich. Fellow quarterbacks David Carr and Colin Kaepernick also were on hand, but Smith was running the show.

Smith also has paid for a plane ticket so that another receiver, rookie Ronald Johnson, could practice with his new teammates.

After seven years, we still don't know if Smith is the 49ers' quarterback of the future. What's clear is that he is acting like a starting quarterback right now.

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