San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Crabtree eager to play in Dallas on Sunday

Michael Crabtree, who used to sell popcorn and hot dogs at Dallas Cowboys games, wasn’t in Texas Stadium in 2000 when Terrell Owens sparked a near-riot by celebrating on the home team’s sacred midfield star.

“But I’ve been thinking about it,” the 49ers wide receiver said before breaking out in laughter.

Crabtree said the calf injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice was minor and that he was certain to play Sunday in Dallas. He’s been eager to show off in front of his hometown since entering the league in 2009.

“Anybody’s got to be excited for that,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back home.”

Crabtree was listed as a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.

He said he worked at Cowboys games starting when he was 6 years old and was a huge fan of the home team, especially players like Troy Aikman, Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin. Asked if he collected autographs, Crabtree said not only that but he’d bring home players’ gloves and towels as well.

“I was the only Little League player with NFL gear on,” he said.

Crabtree wasn’t as eager to talk about his contract. There have been discussions in recent weeks, but it looks as if Crabtree will start the final year of his deal without an extension. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

“I wish I could talk to you about the contract, but I can’t,” he said. “We really don’t need to be talking about it. There’s no contract right now.”

The 49ers played in Dallas during the 2009 preseason. Crabtree never reported for training camp that year and didn’t sign his initial contract until five weeks into the regular season.

Wilhoite to start – There were no surprises from 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Thursday: Michael Wilhoite will begin the season as NaVorro Bowman’s replacement at inside linebacker and good-looking rookie Jimmie Ward is the top option at nickel cornerback.

Wilhoite beat third-round pick Chris Borland for the starting role.

“He just played – throughout the offseason and preseason games – just played a little bit better and (I) feel he warrants the position right now,” Fangio said.

Ward should see plenty of action Sunday. The Cowboys used three or more receivers nearly 60 percent of the time last season. And with a dubious Dallas defense this season, that percentage could rise in 2014.

Et cetera – Ray McDonald was a late arrival at practice for the second straight day. No explanation was given for why he ran onto the field 30 minutes after the session began. The 49ers have not said whether McDonald, who is being investigated on suspicion of felony domestic abuse, will play Sunday.

• Cornerback Chris Culliver (ankle) and tight end Vance McDonald (hamstring) were added to the injury report. Both were listed as limited participants.

• Tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) missed his second straight practice, and it’s looking as if Jonathan Martin may start at right tackle on Sunday.

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