Aldon Smith is one of the most dominant defensive players to wear a 49ers uniform in the 21st century. The Missouri product broke the 49ers’ single-season sack record with 19.5 in 2012, but a series of troubling off-the-field incidents have kept him out of the NFL since 2015.

He recently was reinstated by the NFL and agreed to join the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year contract, and he spoke to ESPN about his path back to football.

"It has been a journey, indeed, and a journey I'm grateful for," Smith said. "I've had time to really work on myself and take advantage of all the support and things that have been offered to me. The way I look at where I am now to who I was in the past, I was a young teenage boy in a man's body, so a man on the outside but a boy on the inside. The way I handled the issues, life, was in that immature manner and that was fear-based and not just handling things the way I should have.”

Smith says he has spent the past year in a sober-living environment and working out every day in Los Angeles. 

His ability on the field never was in question, as former 49ers teammate Arik Armstead recently called Smith the most talented guy he’s ever played with.


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Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula, who was Smith’s position coach in San Francisco, is the defensive line coach for the Cowboys and was a factor in his choosing to sign with Dallas.

"Just seemed like the best fit," Smith said. "Being with Jim in San Francisco and him being here and then the meeting me and (Cowboys head coach) Mike (McCarthy) had, the way that that happened, we seemed like we clicked the first time we talked."

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact Smith can make after multiple years away from the NFL. It’s always nice to see someone find their way back onto the right path in life.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]