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Former FIFA president Joao Havelange released from Rio de Janeiro hospital

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RIO DE JANEIRO - Former FIFA president Joao Havelange has been released from the Rio de Janeiro hospital where he was admitted last week with a respiratory infection.

A spokeswoman at Samaritano Hospital confirmed Thursday that the 98-year-old Havelange "had a strong recovery" and returned home earlier in the week. She did not offer more details.

The World Cup was set to kick off later Thursday with host Brazil playing Croatia.

Havelange, a Brazilian, led football's world governing body from 1974-1998, and was followed by current President Sepp Blatter.

He was hospitalized for several months two years ago with an infected right ankle. That infection also spread to his heart and lungs, but he surprised his doctors by rebounding from serious heart and breathing problems.

Havelange has been embroiled in controversy in recent years.

He resigned from the International Olympic Committee in 2011, citing unspecified health problems. By stepping down he avoided a possible suspension for allegedly taking kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL.

A former Olympic swimmer and water polo player, Havelange had been with the IOC since 1963 and was its oldest member until resigning.

Following his IOC resignation, he was also forced to resign as FIFA's honorary president.

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