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Sponsor issues statement of support for Stewart

August 30, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Sponsor issues statement of support for Stewart
Bass Pro Shops founder stands by 'our friend and fishing buddy'

RELATED: Full coverage of Tony Stewart incident

Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder, released a statement of support for Tony Stewart on Saturday. Bass Pro Shops is co-primary sponsor with Mobil 1 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.)

Read the full statement below.

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Today our thoughts are with our friend and fishing buddy Tony Stewart as he prepares to return to racing after what has been a difficult time in his life. Our hearts go out to him and to the family and friends of Kevin Ward, Jr., who died in the tragic sprint car accident on August 9.

I was able to spend time with Tony last week and it made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this incident.

Like many other race fans, I love Tony's passion and skill on the track and to watch this fierce competitor compete. But the off-track Tony Stewart is the man that I have come to respect. Time and time again, I've witnessed Tony's quiet generosity and compassion as he gives to others. By personally supporting numerous programs like Catch-A-Dream Foundation and Victory Junction, Tony has given many ailing children a chance to experience outdoor sports and have fun opportunities they might not otherwise have.

His love or racing goes far beyond his work behind the wheel. It is common for Tony to sign autographs for each and every race fan for hours on-end. Behind the scenes, Tony continually steps in to help junior drivers get started in racing because he cares about the sport and its fans.

What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I fifteen years ago has turned into a long and special friendship. It's a friendship that has given me the opportunity to get to know one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met.

On behalf of the Bass Pro Shops Family, and as Tony's friend, we are proud to stand by him as he returns this weekend to the sport he loves so much.

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