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Longtime ESPN daytime talk show host Stephen A. Smith was in top trolling form on Monday. Even those who generally find SAS insufferable surely had to be smiling as they watched his triumphant return, complete with a big entrance, by jumping all over the Dallas Cowboys for their loss on NFL Super Wild Card Weekend.

Later, however, the conversation turned deadly serious.

Stephen A. Smith couldn’t contain himself

There’s a sizeable portion of football fandom professing to have two favorite teams: the franchise they’ve been rooting for since childhood and whichever team is playing the Dallas Cowboys. Those fans came away happy Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers knocked the Cowboys out of the NFL playoffs, extending Dallas’ streak of falling short of the NFL title game every year since Super Bowl 30.

Stephen A. Smith fits the description. Attribute it to sitting across the studio from Skip Bayless, his former co-gabber at ESPN and noted Cowboys fan, or some other consideration, but Smith was digging the 23-17 final score.

“Every single layer of the Dallas Cowboys that you can point to, I can sit up here and say they all messed up. … This franchise is an utter disgrace,” Smith gloated.

Retired Cowboys receiving great Michael Irvin sat in with Smith on First Take and didn’t come away unscathed.

“You anointed people who were not worthy just because they wear that star,” Smith scolded Irvin. “You, right now, you are culpable just as much as anybody. You know it and you’ve got to deal with it.”

Stephen A. Smith says his bout with COVID-19 was deadly serious

Stephen A. Smith returned to First Take on ESPN after an extended absence while recovering from COVID-19, which he says nearly killed him. Smith tested positive for the virus in mid-December and rang in the new year in the hospital. It was nothing remotely close to festive, nor anything close to what he expected upon being diagnosed.

“You’re assuming that you’ll have a fever, might have a cough, gonna have that massive headache — but you’ll get over it,” he said according to the New York Post. “In a lot of cases, that was the case. In my case, it was totally different.

“I had 103-degree fever every night. Woke up with chills and a pool of sweat. Headaches were massive. Coughing profusely. And it got to a point where right before New Year’s Eve, I was in the hospital into New Year’s Day.”

Smith says doctors told him he would have died had he not been vaccinated.

As it was, he contracted double pneumonia, and doctors became concerned about his liver. The columnist-turned-broadcaster says he is not yet 100%, but he is well enough to return to the studio.

“I’m on the road to recovery,” he said.

‘I’ve missed being at work’

The good news for fans of Stephen A. Smith is that his prolonged absence was an anomaly. The bad news for his critics is also that it was an anomaly.

“I’m ecstatic to be back,” Smith said. “I’ve missed being at work. I’ve used more sick days in the last month than I’ve used in my 28-year career in this business combined. I don’t take many sick days, but I had to do it this month just to survive.

“And I can’t tell you how lucky and sincerely blessed I am to be sitting here today — because two-and-a-half, three weeks ago, I didn’t know if I was gonna make it.”

Daytime ESPN programming without Smith is almost unfathomable.

As for the NFC playing its championship game without the Dallas Cowboys? Well, not so much.

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