Frank Gore eager to play for real under Harbaugh

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SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (AP) - Frank Gore grabs the handoff from Alex Smith snap after snap, charges up the middle and adds a few extra yards to each carry as is his customary routine on the practice field.

He treats every carry as if he were in a game. Always has.

“Watcha think?” Gore said, chuckling, when asked if he’s his old self again.

A week into training camp after his four-day holdout, the star running back is eagerly looking ahead to San Francisco’s Sept. 11 season opener against Seattle. No. 21 isn’t sure he needs many touches in the exhibition games to be ready, even this year coming off a fractured right hip that sidelined him for the final five games of 2010.

Gore seems as good-natured and geared up as ever to play under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I love it. I’ve been here a week and half. I like what Coach Harbaugh and the coaching staff are doing with the offense,” he said. “You can tell the energy is different. You can see it in Alex (Smith), man. He looks really confident, like he’s ready to go. I like what we’re doing on the offensive side of the ball.”

If Gore has any hard feelings about his unsettled contract situation, you can’t tell. He obliged when a female fan asked for a hug during Tuesday’s open practice.

Gore said he will get with Harbaugh soon to discuss the plan for him this preseason.

Harbaugh said he “would like to see Frank get some touches.” Gore typically plays only a handful of snaps _ last year, it was one series in one game with two carries for 58 yards.

“I’m used to not playing. I’ll see,” Gore said. “It’s all about what coach says. He wants me to play, then I’ll play.”

Harbaugh has been encouraged by his team’s progress, calling Monday’s practice the best yet. The 49ers have been filling out their roster with new acquisitions left and right leading up to Friday’s exhibition opener at New Orleans. That will be the first true test of how the players are grasping Harbaugh’s complex system.

Gore isn’t concerned about being up to speed in the West Coast offense. He doesn’t feel behind despite missing the first four days of training camp, including three practices. In the final season of his contract, Gore is hoping for a big year and a big-paying new deal as he tries to become San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher. The two-time Pro Bowler begins the year third on the list, needing 931 yards to be No. 1.

“I just want to continue and be the player I’ve always been, knowing they’re going to get 110 percent from me every time I touch the field on Sundays, the practice field,” Gore said. “And I can be myself. If I can be myself, that’s great. So far I’ve been feeling good in practice, trying to give it my all and trying to get this offense down pat and get ready for Seattle _ get ready and get going.”

Gore fractured his hip at Arizona on Nov. 29. He’s fully healthy again now.

Gore showed it to a couple of thousand people Tuesday as he plowed through the defensive line in one of a series of open practices for fans on a perfectly clear summer day in the South Bay.

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