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NASCAR's Stewart says Ward's death will affect him forever

HAMPTON, Georgia--Speaking quietly and with a trembling voice, NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart said Friday that the death of Kevin Ward Jr. will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident — it remains under police investigation — and he left the news conference after reading a short statement. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 percent” Stewart's decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward's death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart's only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

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NASCAR auto racing driver Tony Stewart reads a statement during a news conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, Friday, Aug. 29.

(AP

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