Ravens' Ray Rice cheered by fans

BALTIMORE -- Ravens running back Ray Rice got off to a good start in Thursday night's preseason-opening 23-3 win over the San Francisco 49ers and received some loud applause for it.

In his first game since his alleged domestic violence incident, Rice ran for 17 yards on three carries in what was a sharp first drive.

Fans cheered for Rice when he was announced during pregame introductions, and they clapped again for him after his first run, a 6-yard gain. No boos were audible during either instance.

"That means the world to me," Rice said after the game. "Everything I went through, I don't take anything for granted anymore, especially going out there and playing in front of our fans. It's a lot of respect that I have to go out there and earn because of the position that I put myself in."

Rice also issued a statement through the Ravens at halftime, part of which said: "I owe my best to these fans for giving me that kind of ovation. I'm looking forward to giving them the best effort that I can every week throughout the season."

Rice, who lost 15 pounds coming off a career-worst 2013, had more acceleration and showed more decisiveness on his runs.

"I do feel different," he said of his slimmer frame. "I guess it's safe to say I feel like back when I was a rookie. That's the weight I'm continuing to try to play at. Obviously, when I went through when I added a little bit of extra weight, you can't make the cuts like you want to do.

"Training this offseason and focusing on the stuff that I needed to focus on -- diet, exercise, all the stuff I needed to do -- finally I got down to the weight I was comfortable at and went out there and executed."

Rice only played one series, which ended in a touchdown by Bernard Pierce, before being removed.

There were several women and children at M&T Bank Stadium wearing Rice's No. 27 jersey.

Rice was arrested Feb. 15, after he allegedly struck then-fiancée Janay Palmer, leaving her unconscious during an altercation at an Atlantic City hotel. Video surfaced online showing Rice dragging an apparently unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. The couple since has married.

Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and avoided trial by being accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May. The NFL announced that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the upcoming regular season and fined three game checks.