Running back Skip Hicks had been a forgotten player until the Washington Redskins called on him in the late stages of last weekend's victory at Arizona. Hicks's running helped to seal the win over the Cardinals Sunday night, and now the Redskins seem to have renewed confidence in him as an alternative to starting tailback Stephen Davis.

Davis, whose 491 rushing yards lead the NFC, has been one of the NFL's better success stories this season after beating out Hicks for the starting job during training camp. Davis is scheduled to start when the Redskins face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. But he sprained his left ankle during the Cardinals game and if he aggravates that injury on Sunday, Hicks will be back under the spotlight.

"I always prepare myself every week like I'm going to play, because you never know what's going to happen," Hicks said this week. "I don't want to get thrown out there and not be ready."

Hicks capped his nine-carry, 45-yard performance against the Cardinals with a 14-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Entering that game, Hicks had only nine carries. He hadn't played in either of the Redskins' two previous games.

"It's always frustrating because of your competitive nature," he said. "But I had to stay patient and be calm, and whenever I did get a chance make the most of it. I felt good. Watching the films of the game, I was a little rusty. But it felt good to get out there and contribute. It was very satisfying to know I helped to pull out that victory."

Hicks's diminished role came after he set a team rookie record with eight rushing touchdowns last season. He entered training camp as the favorite to inherit the starting job from departed veteran Terry Allen, but the team's coaches soured on his big-play-or-nothing running style. Davis has been durable as well as effective so far this season, and even now Hicks acknowledges that as long as Davis is healthy he probably will get almost all of the carries.

"If the flow is going good, most likely he'll stay in there most of the time," Hicks said.

It has been a trying few months on several fronts for Hicks, who was fined $1,485 and sentenced to 204 hours of community service on Wednesday for illegal use of a handicapped-parking placard while he was at UCLA.

Meanwhile, his initially promising NFL career basically is on hold. Only 25, Davis is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, and the Redskins have resisted his agent's pleas to sign him to a contract extension. Still, the Redskins would like to re-sign Davis, and that could mean that Hicks's future as a starting running back would have to be elsewhere, if at all. Even so, Hicks said he's not necessarily eager to leave.

"Hopefully it will work out, because we both can do some things," he said. "But with free agency, a lot can happen."

Redskins Notes: The team placed three injured players--fullback Larry Bowie, linebacker Fred Strickland and defensive end Ndukwe Kalu--and defensive tackle Barron Tanner on its early inactive list for Sunday's game. . . .

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was in Dallas yesterday and met with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "We're just visiting with all the owners to see how they do things--marketing and things like that," Snyder said. . . .

Kick returner and running back Brian Mitchell will host the seventh annual Multiple Sclerosis Society Sports Night on Tuesday at Tony & Joe's Restaurant in Georgetown. The proceeds will be donated to research and services for the more than 15,000 area families affected by MS. Tickets may be purchased through the MS Society.

Staff writer Leonard Shapiro contributed to this report from Irving, Tex.