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Tim Hightower reunites with former OC Kyle Shanahan after signing with 49ers

The running back isn’t letting his four-year absence from the NFL slow him down.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Hightower will suit up for his sixth season in the league with yet another new team. The 30-year-old running back signed with the 49ers this weekend, according to general manager John Lynch. After two seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Hightower is reuniting with his former offensive coordinator in Washington, new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Hightower’s NFL career has been anything but ordinary. Originally picked by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, the running back spent three years with the team, recording 1,733 yards on 439 carries and 23 touchdowns over three seasons.

He spent his first three seasons going between starter and backup, with the team trying to bring in rookies to be the next franchise back. But every time the rookies messed up or got injured, Hightower was next in line for the job.

The Cardinals wound up trading the running back to Washington in early 2011, for defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a sixth-round draft pick. Hightower was only signed to a one-year deal, and ended up finishing the season on IR after tearing his ACL in Week 6. Despite the injury, Washington re-signed him to another one-year contract, before ultimately releasing him in late August during the final round of roster cuts.

Hightower was cut just before the start of the 2012 season and went without being added to an NFL roster for four years. It wasn’t until the Saints signed him in January 2015 that he got his second chance. The team toyed with Hightower a bit ahead of the season; they released him Sept. 12, re-signed him Sept. 14, releasing him again on Sept. 16, and finally re-signed him again on Nov. 2.

The running back made his regular season debut with the Saints in Week 10 and both parties never looked back. His first taste of action saw 11 carries for 46 yards. His first start for the team — and in the league in over four years -- was in mid-December. Hightower recorded a career-high 28 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown.

New Orleans struck another one-year deal with Hightower during last year’s free agency, and he played in all 16 games during the 2016 regular season. When teammate Mark Ingram was benched, Hightower took over the starting role, and finished the year with 548 yards and four touchdowns on 133 carries.

Hightower took to Twitter to thank the Saints and the fans.

Hightower will be a complement to entrenched starter Carlos Hyde, but with Hyde’s injury history, he may get the opportunity to be the feature back from time to time. Hightower racked up 102 yards on 26 carries against the Seahawks last season, and 122 yards and three touchdowns against the Jaguars in 2015. He should be able to fill in for Hyde as needed.