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MRI on Steve Smith’s knee scheduled for Monday

Steve Smith, the Carolina Panthers’ all-time receiving leader, will undergo an MRI exam on his left knee Monday morning after he injured it during the first half of the Panthers’ 17-13 win against New Orleans on Sunday.

Smith went down grabbing his knee after running a slant route in the first quarter.

“When I planted to jump for the ball, I felt it pop,” Smith said.

After going to the locker room to be evaluated, Smith returned to the game for one play in the second quarter. But he left the field limping and did not return.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t know the extent of Smith’s injury, but Smith seemed downcast at his locker after the game.

“When I went back out there and tried to go, I couldn’t,” Smith said. “So the severity and the seriousness of it just kind of weighs on you a little bit.”

Smith came into the game with a finger injury after dislocating his left middle finger in practice last week. But if Smith has torn knee ligaments, it would more than likely end his season.

Smith, second behind John Kasay in Panthers history with 181 games played, hasn’t missed a game since the 2010 finale at Atlanta, when he had a strained calf.

Domenik Hixon, who replaced Smith and caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Cam Newton, said the receivers were thinking of Smith throughout the game.

“You hate to see a friend go down. We just wanted to play and win the ballgame for him,” Hixon said. “He plays with such intensity and brings so much to the team.”

Smith watched the Panthers’ game-winning drive from the training room while he was icing his knee.

“It’s exciting to watch. I’m really happy for Dom. He’s been awesome to have in the room,” Smith said. “He’s just another guy that people may question, (saying) this receiving corps doesn’t have much depth. But when you give us opportunities, we make plays.”

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