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 Canandaigua.


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.


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

Ontario County Sheriffs deputies say the investigation into Ward's death continues. Investigators say they have been reviewing the information with members of the District Attorney’s and that the investigation should last another two weeks.