HAMPTON (AP) — Tony Stewart’s return to the track has ended only a little over halfway through his race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart hit the wall for the second time after his right front tire blew out on lap 172, ending his night. Stewart drove his battered car to the garage and then exited without speaking to reporters.

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Stewart first went into the wall earlier in Sunday night’s race following a collision with Kyle Busch, requiring work to the right side of his car.

Stewart skipped three NASCAR Sprint Cup races after his car struck and killed a fellow driver in a dirt-track race in upstate New York. He decided to return this week, needing to win either at Atlanta or the next race at Richmond to claim a spot in the Chase.

The three-time champion received a big cheer when he was introduced before the race. Starting in the 12th spot, Stewart ran in the top 10 early in the race, getting as high as fourth.

Then, on lap 122 after a restart, Busch’s No. 18 machine got loose coming out of turn 2 and banged into Stewart, sending both cars against the wall.

Stewart carried on but dropped back to 21st.

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Stewart competed for the first time since the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at a dirt track in upstate New York.

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