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Test day: Palmer aces, while Favre left blank

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Carson Palmer aced the test, while Brett Favre raised more questions.

With a brace protecting his rebuilt knee, the Cincinnati Bengals
quarterback took the hits, avoided the rush and threw three
touchdown passes Monday night in his first game back from the
injury.

By halftime of the 48-17 preseason victory over the Green Bay
Packers, Palmer had convincingly made his case that he'll be ready
for the season opener.

"He hasn't lost a thing," right tackle Willie Anderson said.
"He's our leader, and he's back. That's got to make any Bengals
fan feel real happy."

Showing no hesitation to take a tackle or take off on a
scramble, Palmer completed 9 of 14 passes for 140 yards and three
touchdowns. It felt like old times at jubilant Paul Brown Stadium
when he pointed his right index finger to the sky after his second
touchdown.

"I felt good," Palmer said. "It feels like it's just football
now."

Unless his knee swells in the next few days, Palmer will be on
schedule to start in Kansas City on Sept. 10, his goal during a
grueling comeback that had overshadowed the franchise since its
playoff loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 8.

"He's our quarterback -- he got injured, he's come back from the
injury, and now we can move on," coach Marvin Lewis said. "It's
over now, OK? He's back. He's playing. He'll start in Kansas
City."

Palmer's return was the cornerstone of a buoyant night for the
Bengals, who are 3-0 in preseason for the first time since 1976 and
have clinched their first winning preseason since 1988.

By contrast, a long-awaited Packers return quickly became a
miserable night.

Running back Ahman Green played in his first game since he tore
a tendon in his thigh midway through last season. Green carried eight
times for only 18 yards in the first half, unable to find much room
behind a line featuring two rookie guards. His longest run was 8
yards.

"`It was another step forward in getting ready for Chicago,"
Green said, referring to the Packers' opener. "As the game went
on, I got into the groove and got quicker. I feel good. It was
definitely about getting some rust knocked off."

Mostly, it was another humbling visit for Favre, who gets
more reason to hate the place every time he returns.

Last season, Favre threw five interceptions -- his career high in
the regular season -- and had the ball snatched from his hand by a
fan who ran onto the field in the closing minutes of a 21-14 loss
in Cincinnati.

This time, he had the ball fly out of his hand during a pass
attempt on the opening series, a fumble that Dexter Jackson
returned 29 yards for a touchdown. He was intercepted on the next
series, and tripped and fell while dropping to pass in the second
quarter.

Favre played into the third quarter, going 12-of-25 for 162
yards with three sacks and a touchdown for the Packers (1-2).

Palmer's long-awaited return was high drama for the crowd of
65,614 that waved signs and sported No. 9 jerseys in support.

The Bengals offense was introduced as a unit. Palmer followed
Anderson and center Rich Braham onto the field, entering through
the same tunnel where he left on a cart following his knee injury
Jan. 8.

Palmer's first completion went to Chris Henry, who made a
66-yard reception on Palmer's lone pass in that playoff loss to
Pittsburgh. Kimo von Oelhoffen's shoulder slammed into the side of
Palmer's left knee after he released that playoff pass, shredding
ligaments and dislocating his knee cap.

When Palmer let go of the ball this time, he got tackled for the
first time since the injury. Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila hit
him around the waist and took him down, a tame but telling tackle.

Palmer popped right up.

"It felt good to get hit and to know my knee could withstand
the contact," Palmer said. "They can talk all they want about you
being ready to go, but until you get hit, until you get pressure on
the knee from another player, that's when you know you really feel
confident about it."

Three plays later, Palmer hushed the stadium by scrambling 11
yards, then sliding safely on the side of his brace-supported knee.
A cheer of relief filled the stadium when he got up again.

Then, Palmer started doing what he did all last season, throwing
on-target passes that gave the defenders little chance. After his
second touchdown pass, the usually serious Lewis shared a belly
laugh with receiver Chad Johnson on the sideline.

Cincinnati could laugh again.

Game notes
It was the most points ever allowed by the Packers in
preseason and the most ever scored by the Bengals in preseason. ...
Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh left the game with a bruised heel.
... The game was delayed for 39 minutes in the fourth quarter
because of lightning.