SANTA CLARA -- Running back Kendall Hunter was cleared nearly two weeks ago to return to practice. Now, he's getting the green light for game action.
"I feel like I'm getting back to myself," Hunter said. "I'm ready. Just being out there, I feel good -- real good."
Hunter is scheduled to make his exhibition season debut Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. He went through warmups Friday night before the 49ers' preseason game at Kansas City but was held out of action.
"Kendall's ready to go," Harbaugh said. "Our medical staff, strength and training staff (have) cleared Kendall. He's been back in action in practice and, when you dive back into the action, your senses, your instincts come back and he appears to have that. Looking forward to and excited about him getting out on the field as well."
In 11 games last season as Frank Gore's backup, Hunter carried 72 times for 371 yards (5.2 average) and two touchdowns. His season came to an end on Nov. 25 against the New Orleans Saints due to a partially torn left Achilles.
LaMichael James took over the full-time backup duties after Hunter's injury. He carried 27 times for 125 yards (4.6 average). James has seen the bulk of the second-team reps during training camp with Hunter limited in practices.
If Hunter returns close to his pre-injury form, he should recapture his role as the 49ers' No. 2 running back. He is considered a more polished all-around running back than James with a large advantage in the area of blitz pickup -- an essential skill to earn significant playing.
Hunter's ability to knock off the rust when it comes to protecting Colin Kaepernick from blitzing defenders is a prerequisite toward getting back on the field and into game action.
"I can do everything I want to do and everything I need to do to compete," Hunter said. "That's up to the coaches. I'm ready for any situation."