Panthers rule out WR Smith

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Charlotte, NC ( - As expected, the Carolina Panthers announced that wide receiver Steve Smith will not play in Sunday's regular- season finale against the Atlanta Falcons due to a knee injury.

Smith sustained a PCL sprain in his left knee during last weekend's 17-13 victory over NFC South-rival New Orleans and did not practice for a third consecutive day on Friday. The Panthers are optimistic that the veteran wideout will be available for the team's first game in the upcoming playoffs.

Carolina currently leads the Saints by one game in the division standings entering Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Falcons. The Panthers would clinch the NFC South as well as a first-round bye if they defeat Atlanta.

Running back Jonathan Stewart and defensive tackle Colin Cole were also declared out for Sunday's contest at the Georgia Dome. Stewart is still recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee that occurred earlier this month, while Cole exited the New Orleans game with a calf injury.

Rookie safety Robert Lester is listed as questionable after having his ankle stepped on during Friday's practice, though the Panthers announced that X-rays taken afterward turned out negative.