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      Tony Stewart: Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy will 'affect my life forever'

      Tony Stewart says 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.

      Stewart spoke Friday for the first time Ward died at an Aug. 9 dirt-track event in Canandaigua.

      The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since Ward's death. Stewart will race in Atlanta on Sunday night for the first time in three weeks. He says he took time out of respect for Ward's family - and so he could cope with the tragedy.

      Speaking quietly, Stewart says he could not answer questions about the incident and he left after reading a short statement.

      The Ontario County Sheriff's Department issued this statement after Tony Stewart's comments: "The investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr., which occurred August 9, 2014, at the Canandaigua, New York Motorsports Park will continue for at least another two weeks. The Ontario County Office of Sheriff has reviewed this investigation, as it has been developed to date, with members of the District Attorney's Office. The Office of Sheriff will continue to apprise the District Attorney of information as it is developed. When the investigation is completed, the news media will be advised as to what action will be taken. The Ontario County Office of Sheriff thanks all media outlets for their patience and understanding as we continue to thoroughly investigate this tragic crash."

      Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.