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Rams seek to end losing streak, visit Panthers

Nov 14, 2006 - 8:30 PM St Louis (4-5) at Carolina (5-4) Sunday 1:00 pm EST

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Will Witherspoon decided to leave the Carolina Panthers for a big money.

The middle linebacker returns to face the Panthers as a member of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

A third-round pick in 2002, Witherspoon spent his first four seasons with the Panthers. He signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Rams last offseason.

"It was a decision that happened over the course of time," Witherspoon said. "The only thing I knew for sure was that I was going to hit free agency. I didn't leave it out there to say I'm never coming back because I wasn't mad at anybody. I just knew it was a business."

Witherspoon now anchors the middle for the Rams, who rank 28th in scoring defense (24.6 ppg).

The contest also features a return to Carolina for running back Stephen Davis, who became a salary cap casualty last offseason. He played for the Panthers for three years and rushed for 1,444 yards in 2003, helping the franchise reach the Super Bowl.

In St. Louis, Davis is a backup to Steven Jackson. The 12-year veteran has rushed for just 89 yards on 21 carries in eight games.

After getting off to a surprising 4-1 start under first-year coach Scott Linehan, the Rams have lost four straight games. They are tied with San Francisco for second place in the NFC West, two games behind Seattle.

Jackson rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown in last week's 24-22 loss at Seattle.

A popular pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl at the start of the season, the Panthers are tied with Atlanta for second place in the South, one game behind surprising New Orleans.

Steve Smith shook off a bout of the flu to catch eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in last Monday's 24-10 victory over Tampa Bay.

While Smith is having another Pro Bowl season, the Panthers will be looking for more out of their running game. DeShaun Foster has rushed for just 215 total yards in the last four games.

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