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Gore hopes to stay with 49ers beyond this season

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For weeks, Frank Gore has been pondering the reality he could be playing his final game with San Francisco on Sunday.

He briefly became quiet Tuesday just talking about it, saying he would like nothing more than to return to the 49ers next season, his only team as a pro. Especially after the way this year went, missing the playoffs following three straight trips to the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl near miss.

“I’ve been thinking about it these last two weeks very hard,” Gore said Tuesday in a short interview with The Associated Press. “I’m OK. I was just thinking about, ‘Dang, it really can be.’

“But I know the business of it. The organization has been great, they’ve been great to me. I just want to finish strong in front of my fans. Hopefully we can get a win, and I’ll see from there.”

San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher needs 38 yards Sunday against Arizona for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and eighth in his 10 NFL seasons. The Niners (7-8) need to beat the Cardinals to avoid their first losing season under embattled fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh.

Gore finished with 158 yards against the Chargers after breaking four tackles on a 52-yard scoring run in the first quarter. He’s showing no signs of being slowed after a concussion sustained at Seattle on Dec. 14.

“I expect a lot out of Frank and there’s not too much he does that amazes me anymore because that’s just the standard he’s set for himself,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “He’s a huge asset and I’m hoping he’s back here. Feel a lot more comfortable with 21 in the backfield.”

Gore said there have been no formal discussions with the front office about what might be next. General manager Trent Baalke on Thursday acknowledged the mutual interest to CSN Bay Area and said the 49ers hope Gore returns.

BROWNS: Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t play much as a rookie, but when he did, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M got wrecked by this league.

The Browns have two first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft. So if their confidence in Manziel has wavered because of his poor performances in a small sample size, they could be in the market for a top quarterback prospect like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

“I don’t think it would be fair to give up on somebody after seven quarters of football,” Manziel said Tuesday when asked if he’s concerned about the Browns possibly targeting a first-round quarterback. “If that’s what they were in the business for and that’s what they intended on me coming in here doing, just giving them seven quarters, giving them a couple games and then looking somewhere else, I don’t feel like that’s a lot of commitment and sticking with somebody.”

Manziel was ruled out Monday for Sunday’s season finale between the Browns (7-8) and Baltimore Ravens (9-6) because of the hamstring injury he suffered last weekend in a 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

He finished the season 0-2 as a starter and 18 of 35 passing (51.4 percent) for 175 yards and zero touchdowns with two interceptions to go along with nine carries for 29 yards (3.2 average) and a touchdown.

LIONS: Lions center Dominic Raiola lost his appeal of a one-game suspension for stepping on Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson.

Appeals officer Derrick Brooks, the Hall of Fame linebacker appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, upheld the suspension Tuesday.

The punishment was handed down Monday by Merton Hanks, the NFL’s vice president of football operations. The league said this was Raiola’s sixth rules violation related to player safety since 2010.