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Hornets' Paul returns to lineup

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Chris Paul was back in the Hornets' starting lineup Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings, the All-Star guard's first action since being diagnosed with a mild concussion nearly a week ago.

Hornets coach Monty Williams said Paul is ready to play again after participating fully in practice on Thursday, a full team scrimmage on Friday and Saturday morning's shootaround.

"He looked fresh," Williams said of Paul's work in practice the past few days. "He was just Chris, facilitating, getting guys into the offense. He was defending. It hadn't looked like he'd skipped a beat. That was good for us."

Paul missed two games after his hard collision with Cleveland's Ramon Sessions in the third quarter of a victory over the Cavaliers on March 6. The Hornets went 1-1 without him, losing a close game at Chicago last Monday and pulling out an improbable comeback win at home over Dallas last Wednesday.

Paul wanted to come back against Dallas, but Williams said he thought the team handled his injury the right way.

"To lose Chris for a few games, you don't like it but it's something that you know is necessary and you err on the side of caution in situations like that," Williams said. "Athletes want to play no matter what. That's the reason why some of us are walking around limping, with fingers twisted, because you do stupid stuff, so sometimes somebody else has to be your brains. That's what the doctors and trainers are there for."

As far as the Hornets' postseason hopes are concerned, however, Paul could not return too soon.

He is averaging 15.9 points and 9.6 assists for the Hornets, who entered Saturday's action holding the seventh of eight playoff seeds in the Western Conference, three games ahead of ninth-place Phoenix.

"He's Chris Paul. He runs the team like a quarterback," Williams said. "Any team that loses their best player, when they get him back, they're going to have a number of things, leadership from Chris, a coach on the floor, energy, crowd excitement, everything."