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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 May, 2004, 03:19 GMT 04:19 UK
Maradona thanks fans
Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona has spoken of his gratitude for the support of his fans in his first interview since leaving hospital on Thursday.

The 43-year-old left the Suizo-Argentina clinic after a 12-day stay including time in intensive care with heart and breathing problems.

"I want to thank the people who prayed for me," said Maradona, who played golf on Friday

"I saw death up close and I wanted them to cover me, to caress me."

He added: "When God decides its time, I guess he'll come for us."

Maradona made a low-key exit from the hospital, avoiding the fans and journalists camped outside by departing in a car with tinted windows.

"Given [his improved health], various treatments have been indicated, and it is up to the patient and his personal doctor... to decide how they go about this," read a statement from the Suizo-Argentina clinic.

Maradona is believed to have taken his personal doctor and several nursing staff to a friend's house on the outskirts of Buenos Aires as he continues his recovery.

The World Cup winner said he intends to spend time in Italy over the summer.

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