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Is Frank Gore building a case for Canton?

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore joined an elite club in Sunday's 28-17 season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes, we already know he became the 29th member of the 10,000-yard rushing club. But more than that, Gore is just the 10th player to rush for that many yards while playing at least 10 seasons with one team.

The others?

Try Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys), Walter Payton (Chicago Bears), Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions), Tony Dorsett (Cowboys), Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), Thurman Thomas (Buffalo Bills), Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars), Jerome Bettis (Steelers) and Tiki Barber (New York Giants).

All but Taylor, Bettis and Barber are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though Bettis is a four-time finalist for enshrinement in Canton. So it begs the question -- is Gore worthy of Hall of Fame discussion?

Or is it too soon to bring up the topic?

Consider: Bettis, who rushed for 13,662 yards in his career as a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, went out on top with a Super Bowl ring while Barber was a three-time Pro Bowler, and one-time All-Pro and Taylor went to one Pro Bowl.

Gore, a five-time Pro Bowler with 10,033 career rushing yards who has been to the playoffs the past three seasons after being shut out the first six years of his career, has yet to win a rushing title, or be part of a Super Bowl championship team. Besides, a more hearty Canton case for a 49ers running back might first be made for Roger Craig.

Plus, Gore is 31 years old and his best days may be behind him, but he still has some run left in him.

"There's no shelf life for football players," said coach Jim Harbaugh. "And that's something I learned at an early age from my mom -- never to believe in expiration dates. She taught us that very early -- pay no attention to the expiration date on that can or that milk or that bread.

"Now, maybe she was just trying to get things at a lesser cost. Learned that very well. There is no expiration date. Even if the bread had a little mold on it, brush it off or cut it off and eat the other part, but we're not throwing it away. We're not throwing away good food or drink."

Or football players that can still contribute and, presumably, continue to build a case for Canton while helping a team that's been to three straight NFC title games finally break through to get the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy in 20 years.

Because with the 49ers currently having just two tailbacks on the roster in Gore and rookie Carlos Hyde -- LaMichael James went through waivers unclaimed on Tuesday, a day after requesting and being granted his release from the Niners while unhappy about a lack of playing time -- it's obvious San Francisco still has faith in Gore.

And that's just fine with him. After all, it was his 5-yard pickup off right tackle on third-and-3 that sealed the 49ers' victory over the Cowboys.

"That's me; I'm a very smart runner," he said, unapologetically. "I've got good feet and great vision. I know my alignments. You see different movement on the defensive line, and you know where they're going.

"That's just me being me."