As wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. visited prospective teams this past offseason during his free agent tour, one thing stuck out about the Carolina Panthers.

Besides being on the verge of playoff contention in Ginn’s estimation, he thought the Panthers had something to prove.

So did he.

Ginn was San Francisco’s punt returner during the 49ers’ Super Bowl season in 2012, but he was the forgotten man in their receiving rotation. Ginn, a former first-round draft pick from Ohio State, caught two passes for 1 yard.

By comparison, rookie tight end Garrett Celek – the only undrafted free agent to make the Niners’ roster and the lesser-known, younger brother of Eagles tight end Brent Celek – had four receptions.

Neither Ginn nor Niners coach Jim Harbaugh shed much light on Ginn’s disappearing act this week as the Panthers prepared for Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

“I don’t even harp on it anymore,” Ginn said Thursday after practice. “I came here, got with my guys here. They brought me in with open arms, taught me the ropes. Now I got the opportunity to show what I have, and that’s all I’m doing.”

Ginn has shown he still has plenty of speed. His emergence as a deep threat has helped open the field for wide receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell and tight end Greg Olsen.

But the Panthers aren’t using Ginn strictly as a decoy. His 21 receptions at the midpoint of the season are more than during his best full season in San Francisco in 2011, when he caught 19 passes for 220 yards in Harbaugh’s first year with the Niners.

But when San Francisco signed free agent receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss before the 2012 season to team with Michael Crabtree, it bumped Ginn down the depth chart. By the time Ginn came back from an ankle injury that sidelined him the first three games of the season, he was relegated to the punt return role.

But Harbaugh disagreed when it was suggested Ginn had been caught in a numbers crunch at receiver.