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UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios comes back from life-threatening infection

UCLA BruinsNebraska CornhuskersFootballSports

UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios, mere months from a life-threatening fungal infection, could return to the Bruins' lineup as soon as the Oct. 3 game at Utah.

Rios, wearing shorts, jersey, helmet and cleats, went through light workouts with strength and condition coach Sal Alosi. Rios wanted more.

"I saw my pads in the locker room and I was ready to go," said Rios, who played in nine games as a freshman last season. "Coach Alosi said, 'Naw, you have to go through a program with me first to make sure you come out right.' "

Rios spent more than a month in the hospital last winter, as doctors tried to eradicate the rare fungal infection aspergillosis, which is often fatal. He underwent a handful of surgical procedures and was treated with several antibiotics through a PICC line in his arm.

The PICC line was removed two weeks ago. Rios underwent an MRI exam last week, which showed the fungus had not returned. He returned to practice for the first time Tuesday.

"It felt good being able to be with teammates again, getting to do all the things I have missed," Rios said.

Rios, who at one point dropped to 130 pounds, is back up to 175. He said he would be ready to play by the Utah game.

Coach Jim Mora was a little more cautious.

"Let's see where he is on Sept. 23," Mora said. "We'll see if he can get back that quick. But the most important thing is his health."

Big Red alert

UCLA has an open date Saturday and will begin preparation for Nebraska this week. The Bruins play the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Sept. 14.

"You want to introduce some things, but you don't want it to become stale," Mora said. "We'll have a period [Wednesday] and a period Thursday on Nebraska."

UCLA had nine days to prepare for Nebraska in 2012 and defeated the Cornhuskers, 36-30, in the Rose Bowl.

Mora said the open week, sandwiched between the 58-20 victory over Nevada and a game against the 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers, fell at the right time.

"Had we played Nebraska this week, too many people outside this facility would have put the focus on Nebraska and overlooked Nevada," Mora said. "Having a week in between allowed our football team to focus squarely on Nevada."

Numbers game

UCLA running back Jordon James had the seventh-most yards rushing with 155 in the first week.

The Bruins rose to No. 18 in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls. UCLA has not cracked the top 10 since 2005, when it reached seventh before taking a 52-14 beating at Arizona.

The Bruins have won eight of their last nine home openers.

Quick hits

Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hip surgery) and receiver Kenneth Walker (back surgery) did light workouts, without pads, with the team for the first time Tuesday. Neither is expected to play this season. … Freshman cornerback Priest Willis returned to practice Tuesday. He did not suit up for the Nevada game because of a sore shoulder.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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