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Songaila returns to practice

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Forward Darius Songaila, the Washington Wizards' most expensive free agent acquisition of the offseason, yesterday participated in his first full practice of the regular season.

The 6-foot-9 Songaila, signed by the club to a five-year, $23 million deal in July, has not played because of back surgery performed right before the start of this season.

Coach Eddie Jordan was encouraged by what he saw from Songaila, who is expected to be a key component in the rotation.

"Darius surprisingly played longer and more physical than I thought he would today," Jordan said. "He got through the entire practice and was very impressive."

Jordan, however, gave no timetable for Songaila's return.

Songaila said he felt good after the workout.

"I am encouraged because I felt fine," he said. "I did not feel any pain in my back. The strength in the legs is not there yet, but the only way I'm going to get that back is by playing."

Last season, Songaila scored a career-high 9.2 points a game and averaged 4.0 rebounds in 62 games with the Chicago Bulls.

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