Panthers' Smith re-energized, off to hot start

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Carolina Panthers veteran wide receiver Steve Smith is aging gracefully, conjuring up comparisons to NFL great Jerry Rice.

Now equipped with a high-profile quarterback and an offensive coordinator who prefers a downfield passing game, Smith is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in his 11th season with the Panthers. He leads the NFC in receiving yards with 530 and is on pace to shatter Rice's single-season record of 1,848 yards.

Rice was 33 when he set that mark in 1995. Smith is 32 and appears re-energized running routes in Carolina's new passing offense and playing alongside budding rookie star Cam Newton.

Offensive lineman Jordan Gross says "it's incredible" what Smith is doing, who is "not showing any signs of slowing down."

Smith and the Panthers host New Orleans on Sunday.