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Tony Stewart returns to the Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta

NASCAR: Food City 500-Qualifying
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Mar 14, 2014; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart during qualifying for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Tony Stewart is going to be back in a race car at Atlanta.

Stewart will return to the Sprint Cup Series for Sunday's race after missing three races after he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a dirt track event in upstate New York on Aug. 9.

Stewart-Haas Racing revealed Stewart's plans Thursday afternoon.

Jeff Burton had filled in for Stewart at Michigan and at Bristol. His substitute appearances had been announced on Wednesday afternoon both times. Regan Smith was Stewart's substitute at Watkins Glen the day after Stewart struck Ward.

The investigation into Ward's death is still ongoing though the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department said earlier this week that it was in its final stages. Stewart struck Ward after Ward exited his car and walked down the track towards Stewart's car under caution. He was hit by the right rear tire. When Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero last spoke to the media, he said no charges were currently pending against Stewart nor was there evidence of criminal intent.

Before the race at Michigan, NASCAR announced that drivers wouldn't be allowed to leave their cars before safety workers arrive in response to the incident between Stewart and Ward.

Shortly after Stewart-Haas announced that Stewart would return Thursday, NASCAR released a statement and said Stewart had been cleared by the sanctioning body to resume racing.

“Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway," NASCAR Executive VP Steve O'Donnell said. "NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team, and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition.”

Stewart will have a press conference at 1 p.m. ET Friday at Atlanta while NASCAR President Mike Helton will speak at 2 p.m.

Since he missed three races, Stewart would have to win at Atlanta on Sunday or at Richmond on Sept. 7 and receive a waiver from NASCAR to get into the Chase.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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