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SANTA CLARA -- Bruce Ellington is going from two-sport star at South Carolina to a potential multi-use threat for the 49ers.

Ellington, the sixth pick of Saturday's fourth round at No. 106 overall, will look to win a spot on an increasingly crowded wide receiving corps and also audition as a return specialist.

At South Carolina, Ellington also played basketball, averaging 11.2 points per game as a point guard before leaving the team in January upon declaring for the NFL draft.

"It was difficult because I love to compete and I love both sports," Ellington said Saturday. "Football is what I feel comfortable doing. I say about my second year playing football, I finally realized football is what I wanted to do."

The 49ers' punt-return role has been a cause for concern in recent years. But Friday night, general manager Trent Baalke threw a lot of support behind LaMichael James, saying it's his job

"First of all, LaMichael did an excellent job for us a year ago, and it's his job, along at the running back position," Baalke said. "We don't feel an urgency to go out and replace LaMichael, at all."

The first of the 49ers' seven picks Saturday, Ellington might become James' replacement. Ellington averaged 22.7 yards on 43 career kickoff returns, and although he had only three punt returns, he said: "I'll be comfortable doing it."

Among those who helped sway Ellington to the gridiron was Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks' star running back who was drafted by the 49ers in last year's fourth round.


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"Marcus is a team player. He's one of the guys who came to me and told me to play football," Ellington said. "We have a good relationship. We'll make it even better when I get up there."

Ellington (5-foot-9, 197 pounds) led the Gamecocks last season with 49 receptions for 775 yards and eight touchdowns.

Ellington's cousin Andre was a rookie running back last season for the Arizona Cardinals.

Ellington is the third South Carolina product who could play a key role for the 49ers this season. Cornerback Chris Culliver (2011 third-round pick) and Lattimore did not play last season but are poised to contribute if if fully recovered from knee injuries.

Ellington was the 17th wide receiver selected. He met with the 49ers, and upon his selection Saturday, "They told me to come in and be ready to compete. I love to compete so I'll come in and do what they ask me to do."

Ellington joins a receiving corps, led by Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, that saw Stevie Johnson arrive in a Friday trade from the Buffalo Bills. Also, veteran Brandon Lloyd is attempting to return from a one-year hiatus.

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.