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Earnhardt Has Back Surgery

Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time Winston Cup Series champion, underwent successful spinal column surgery Friday to remove a disc he ruptured in March.

Earnhardt will have to stay off the track for at least six weeks while he recovers.

"The surgery couldn't have gone any better," an Earnhardt spokesman said. "Dale's goal is to be prepared to race by the time the team comes to Daytona for the Daytona 500" on Feb. 20.

The ruptured disc pinched a nerve, causing pain and a numbing sensation, said Dr. Charles Branch, a medical center neurosurgeon who diagnosed the problem in June.

Branch said proper diet and therapy helped Earnhardt complete this past racing season. But a recent checkup showed the problem persisted, and surgery was scheduled.

The two-hour operation involved removing the ruptured disc through an incision in the neck, Branch said.

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