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Holmes returns from two-year absence after severe neck injury

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Priest Holmes completed his improbable
comeback Sunday, returning to the Kansas City Chiefs' lineup nearly
two years after a serious neck injury threatened the three-time Pro
Bowl running back's career.

Holmes played for the first time since Oct. 30, 2005, in the
Chiefs' 12-10 road victory over the rival Oakland Raiders. Though
he managed just 9 yards on four carries, his pain-free performance
suggested the former star's comeback story has additional chapters.

"I'm excited," said Holmes, the Chiefs' career franchise
leader in yards rushing and touchdowns. "There wasn't really much
I did, other than when I was called on, I did a couple of little
things. It wasn't anything new. At the end of the day, this is
work."

Holmes was thrown for a 6-yard loss after catching a screen pass
on his first snap. In the fourth quarter he had three carries
during Kansas City's important clock-killing drive in the final
minutes, including an 8-yard run for a first down.

"For a guy that hadn't played in a long time, he did a good
job," coach Herm Edwards said. "He got through it, and now he'll
be more involved in it."

Even that 6-yard loss on the first pass was a huge gain for a
once-dominant 34-year-old back whose career was widely assumed to
be finished. Most fans thought his next appearance at Arrowhead
Stadium would be to see his name enshrined on the facade as a
member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

Holmes enjoyed a sublime 4½-year stretch with the Chiefs from
2001-05, rushing for 5,933 yards and 76 TDs. His 83 total TDs also
are a franchise best.

Holmes hadn't played since a vicious hit from San Diego's Shawne Merriman caused the neck injury.

Now, it's possible Holmes might be ready to provide a third-down
counterpoint to Larry Johnson in an offense that has relied heavily
on Holmes' heir since his injury.

"It's just part of my job, [and] I'll come in here and do it
very humbly," Holmes said. "If I get one, two, three carries,
I'll do whatever I need to do. I've still got a long ways to go."

After watching the Chiefs' first two series on the sideline,
Holmes entered the game on the third play of Kansas City's third
drive, shortly before the first quarter ended. He caught a screen
pass from Damon Huard, but was buried by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

"I was excited just to get that first hit out of the way,"
Holmes said. "Then they didn't really get the opportunity to use
me again until the fourth quarter. When you're the third-down back,
you only get so many opportunities, because you want your first guy
feeling good."

Holmes carried the ball for no gain late in the third quarter,
but made two key runs for 11 yards late in the fourth. His biggest
contribution was his first-down run around the left end with 3
minutes left.

He even tried to fall down before going out of bounds to keep
the clock running, but that veteran play went unrewarded when the
officials ruled him out.

"It was great when we got towards the end of the game, when we
were in the huddle and we were getting a little tired," tight end
Tony Gonzalez said. "It was good to put No. 31 in there."

Even Edwards, who took over the club last season, figured
Holmes' career was over when the veteran wasn't able to return for
2006. Holmes surprised the Chiefs by reporting to training camp in
River Falls, Wis., this summer, claiming he saw himself returning
to action in a dream. His comeback was ridiculed by some fans and
media members, with speculation he was risking his health for
money.

The Chiefs kept Holmes out of full practices through the first
six weeks of the season. Once he returned to regular workouts last
Wednesday, Kansas City decided to test him after trading backup
Michael Bennett to Tampa Bay.

For now, Kansas City will use Holmes as a third-down back behind
Johnson, who became one of the NFL's elite ball carriers during
Holmes' absence. Johnson had 3,539 yards rushing over the past two
seasons, carrying the Kansas City offense in Holmes' absence.

"By the end of the year, it could be one of the best -- if not
the best -- one-two punches in the NFL," Gonzalez said.