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49ers linebacker Smith suspended for nine games

(Reuters) - San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended without pay for the first nine games of the 2014 regular season for violating the National Football League's policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct.

"Smith will be eligible to return to the 49ers' active roster on Monday, November 10 following the team's November 9 game against the New Orleans Saints," an NFL spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

Smith, 24, a Pro Bowl selection in 2012, missed five games during the 2013 season after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and then voluntarily checking himself into a rehabilitation facility.

"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement on Friday.

"Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."

The seventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith in 2012 became the fastest player in the NFL to record 30 sacks, achieving the feat in just 27 games.

"He's had a heck-of-a training camp," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's really taken his game to the highest level."

San Francisco will also begin the season without All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is recovering from a knee injury he sustained during the National Football Conference Championship game, which was won 23-17 by the Seattle Seahawks.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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