Hoping James can return vs. Panthers

Updated: October 10, 2003, 10:05 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- Edgerrin James could play for the first time in three weeks Sunday for the Indianapolis Colts as he continues recovering from a back injury.

Colts coach Tony Dungy said Thursday that James was in good shape after practicing Wednesday for the first time since he was hurt in a Sept. 21 game against Jacksonville.

"It was a good sign, I think, coming back a second day after a hard practice. I'm optimistic about his chances this week," Dungy said.

The Colts (5-0) hope to have the two-time NFL rushing champ back on the field for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers (4-0).

"It'll be a game-time (decision)," Dungy said. "But I would think if he goes three practices in a row without any problems, he should be fine."

The Colts also are watching James Mungro, one of the running backs who have filled in for James the last two games.

Mungro sprained his right knee late in Monday's game against Tampa Bay and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He had an MRI on Wednesday and the results showed a slight cartilage tear.

Dungy said Mungro's injury could heal on its own, but there was a chance he would need arthroscopic surgery.

"I think the thought process now is to probably let it go," Dungy said. "He's going to practice (Friday) and hopefully it will be OK."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index