SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)The San Francisco 49ers activated safety Jimmie Ward from injured reserve on Saturday, adding a key piece back to the NFL’s stingiest defenses.

The Niners added Ward in time to play Sunday at Carolina. Ward has been sidelined since injuring his hamstring early in training camp.

Ward has been one one of the most dependable secondary players for the 49ers in recent years with his ability at deep safety to limit big plays.

San Francisco more than survived his absence with veteran Tashaun Gipson, who was signed in late August to team with promising second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga.

That duo has helped San Francisco lead the NFL through four games by allowing only 11.5 points per game and 3.81 yards per play.

Now Ward has been added to the mix.

The Niners have allowed the fewest yards per play through four games in the NFL since 2008 and the 37 points allowed to opposing offenses are tied for the second fewest through games since 2010.

San Francisco also signed defensive tackle Akeem Spence from the practice squad to add more options on the interior line with starters Arik Armstead (foot) and Javon Kinlaw (knee) both sidelined by injuries.

In other roster moves, the 49ers placed offensive lineman Colton McKivitz on injured reserve with a knee injury that is expected to sidelined him for months. McKivitz had been filling in at left tackle for injured All-Pro Trent Williams. Third-stringer Jaylon Moore will start against the Panthers,

San Francisco also elevated running back Tevin Coleman and receiver Malik Turner from the practice squad for Sunday’s game.

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