The doctor who performed apparently successful surgery on Herschel Walker's broken right thumb today said Georgia's all-America running back will need an extraordinary recovery to be able to play before a Sept. 25 game against South Carolina.

The surgical procedure in which Dr. William Mulherin inserted two pins into the thumb Walker injured at practice Saturday took 20 to 30 minutes under local anesthetic and Walker was at practice this afternoon as the Bulldogs prepared for a Sept. 6 opener against defending national champion Clemson.

Mulherin, a team physician who specializes in orthopedics, said the operation was a success and said he saw little chance for a complication unless Walker played again too soon and reinjured the thumb.

In that case, Mulherin said, Walker, who has been in the top three in Heisman Trophy balloting the last two seasons, would need another operation and likely would miss the rest of his junior season. His injury was a broken metacarpal bone near the base of the thumb, to the extent it was displaced.

"Fortunately," Mulherin said, "the break did not go into the joint. Herschel experienced no pain. I feel good about the fact he'll be all right."

Mulherin said that in three weeks the bone will, for all practical purposes, be mended, but not completely stable. "I would like to think Herschel could come back in three weeks," he said, "but that's just not being very realistic."

After Clemson, Georgia plays Brigham Young Sept. 11 and is idle the next weekend.

"Herschel will be able to resume running and so forth, with his arm in a cast, in the next couple of days," Mulherin said. "It's possible he could play against BYU if all goes real well and he heals like Herschel is expected to heal. That is, faster than anybody else.

"But even then he would have to play with no contact practice going into the game," Mulherin said. "He simply won't be like the old Herschel Walker until six weeks have passed."