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Playing San Francisco means more for Panthers’ Ted Ginn Jr.

San Francisco is where Ted Ginn Jr.’s NFL career went to die.

The No. 9 pick in the 2007 draft, Ginn’s career barely had a pulse with the San Francisco 49ers in his three years there. The receiver didn’t do much receiving, and the punt returner did less and less returning.

His career has been revived with the Carolina Panthers, who will host the 49ers at 1 p.m. Sunday in an NFC divisional-round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium. Ginn has played against the 49ers once this season, and he promised he had no hard feelings.

But Ginn did give a little extra Nov. 10.

After a punt return he got up and spun the ball at the 49ers’ sideline. An undistinguished 11-yard fourth-quarter catch elicited a stare-down from Ginn to a player who wasn’t even on the 49ers when Ginn played for them.

“It’s something there. It’s nothing that I harp on. It’s a fuel,” Ginn said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s nothing against anybody. It’s just how I feel.”

Ginn spent his first three seasons in Miami, putting up modest receiving numbers but never quite producing like the Dolphins would have hoped for the top-10 pick. He was traded during 2010 to San Francisco, where he seemed to become an afterthought.

Ginn caught 12 passes in 2010, then 19 in 2011 before catching two balls for 1 yard in 2012. In that final season, Ginn had a career-low 11 kickoff returns.

“They’re just the other team,” Ginn said. “I had my time there and I did what I was supposed to do there. I wouldn’t say I stunk the place up. My departure was for both sides. It was good for me and it was good for them – Miami and San Fran. So when we play those guys, yeah it’s a little rivalry, but that’s nature. But it’s next game.”

When general manager Dave Gettleman acquired Ginn in the spring, his ability to “blow the top off the coverage” was lauded by coach Ron Rivera, and Ginn has shown he still has what it takes to be a contributor in the receiving corps.

Ginn is fourth on the team with 556 receiving yards and has five touchdowns. His 25 kickoff returns average 23.8 yards, which is third-best in his career.

Against the 49ers this season, Ginn had two catches for 19 yards but also had a 25-yard punt return near midfield that led to the winning field goal.

What does playing against your former team do to you?

“It lights a fire under your” butt, said fullback Mike Tolbert, who rushed for two touchdowns last season against San Diego – his former team. “Real talk. It does. It’s something that, you want to prove, obviously you want to win, but you want to prove to the team that you never should have let me go.”

San Francisco’s receiving corps is thriving with the return of Michael Crabtree, who caught eight passes for 125 yards last weekend at Green Bay, along with Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. And in the return game, LaMichael James averages 10.9 yards per punt return and 26.8 yards on kick returns.

Ginn also has moved on, and with the move to Carolina, he’s experiencing a resurgence of his career.

“There are a lot of years I could harp on. Last year’s over with,” he said. “It’s just ironic that Ted Ginn gets to play the 49ers twice in one year. That’s what makes it be a little rivalry or whatever you want to call it. It’s nothing to it but to go out and do it.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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