Cam produces TDs on 1st 2 plays for Panthers

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — It didn’t take long for Cam Newton to make an impact in his return to the Carolina Panthers.

The 32-year-old quarterback scored on a 2-yard run on Carolina’s fifth offensive play to give the Panthers a quick lead over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

He followed that with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson on his second play as the Panthers grabbed a 14-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.

The plays came in the same stadium where Newton made his NFL debut in 2011 after Carolina made him the first pick of the draft out of Auburn.

Newton came in for starter PJ Walker to score the first touchdown on second-and-goal as he took the snap from the shotgun and popped the play outside, where he beat linebacker Isaiah Simmons as he lunged over the goal line.

Newton then took off his helmet and began shouting “I’m baaaack” as he ran up and down the sideline. He also handed the football to a kid in the stands as he always did his first nine seasons at Carolina.

The celebration drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Newton was back up with first-and-goal from the 2-yard line again. He started running to his right and then tossed the touchdown to Anderson.

Newton returned to Carolina on Thursday with a one-year deal that could pay him up to $10 million for the rest of the season.

He is expected to get his first start in his second tenure with the Panthers next week at Bank of America Stadium against Washington and coach Ron Rivera, who made Newton the top pick in 2011.

For Newton, getting into Sunday’s game was the start of an audition for next season.

If he does well, according to a league source, the Panthers will attempt to re-sign him to be their starter in 2022. That would make Sam Darnold, guaranteed $18.5 million next season after Carolina picked up his fifth-year option following a trade with the New York Jets, one of the highest-paid backups in the league.

The Panthers could attempt to trade Darnold, but it’s unlikely a team would make such a deal with his high cap figure. And the Panthers, according to a source, wouldn’t give Darnold away.

They already are paying last year’s starter, Teddy Bridgewater, $7 million this season while he plays for Denver.

The Panthers released Newton in the spring of 2020 after coach Matt Rhule was hired because of questions about injuries to his foot and shoulder that had hampered him the past two seasons.

He was brought back after Carolina learned on Tuesday that Darnold would miss at least four to six weeks with a shoulder injury suffered last week against New England.

Newton spent the past 1½ years with New England but was released in late August when the Patriots opted to go with rookie Mac Jones as their starter.

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