Welcome to RP!!!
I agree with edgework in trying to not obliterate texture in a picture... but I did want to remove as many scratches as possible...
Like everybody else, I used Neat Image, very soft/natural settings, applied to the darkest parts of the image in Blue and Green channels individually and to the lightest parts in the composite RGB.
To balance the shadows and remove the darkish stains I created new empty Layers (blending: Lighten, Soft Light) and with a fuzzy white or colour (picked from a surrounding area) brush (Opacity 10-30%) I carefully painted over the parts to correct.
Added a bit of noise to the corrections, and, finally, slightly sharpened the image (USM).
wow- thank you all so much. this place is great; what a wonderful response. i need to digest all that you have presented me here; for sure you have helped me solve my problem.
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