Valentino Rossi returned to the MotoGP podium just seven weeks after breaking his leg, with a hard fought third place at Laguna Seca on Sunday.

Fourth one week earlier after losing out to Casey Stoner in the final turn of the German GP, Rossi found himself under similar last-lap pressure for third in America - but this time was able to fend-off a last corner attack by Honda's Andrea Dovizioso.

Rossi had been sixth on lap one, then spent much of the race holding off Americans Nicky Hayden (Ducati) and Ben Spies (Yamaha), before passing Dovizioso on lap 27 of 32. Dovizioso's team-mate Dani Pedrosa had crashed out of the lead on lap twelve.

"The start of the race was very hard for me because I had a lot of pain and I was far from the podium. But then I saw Pedrosa on the gravel and I just had to try to catch Dovizioso!" revealed Rossi.

"I just pushed as hard as I could for a few laps and that brought me closer to him and then I couldn't give up, somehow I caught him and it was a great feeling to pass him to take third. It's a great result after my injury and it felt so good to be back on the podium in front of the fans.

"There are so many people I have to thank who have helped me to get back to this position. I am very happy that we have some time off now because I have a lot of work to do on my body to try to be back to my best for Brno, which I love," he concluded.

Brno, on August 15, had been the original target for Rossi's return, but he then decided to try and ride at the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca to build up his speed.

"These were supposed to be the two 'rehabilitation' races for Valentino after his big injury while he just got used to being back on the bike, but he's come fourth and then third which has amazed us all," said team manager Davide Brivio.

"This track was very demanding on his body and he had a hard time all weekend but he was still able to battle for the podium. It was brilliant and we're so happy now. Everyone is looking forward to a break but also to coming back strongly in the second half of the season."

Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo won the race, with Ducati's Casey Stoner in second.

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