ATLANTA (AP) -- 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 upstate New York.
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. He said "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 and he left after reading a short statement.
Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was "100 percent" Stewart's decision to race. He says Stewart is "emotional" but ready to race.