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Gored Spanish bullfighter returns to ring

Spanish matador Juan Jose Padilla makes an extraordinary comeback Sunday when he enters the ring less than five months after a fighting bull’s horn skewered him through his neck and eye.

Wearing a black eye patch, the 38-year-old bullfighter will face off in the arena against a half-tonne bull before the public in Olienza, southwest of Madrid and near the border with Portugal.

Padilla was blinded in the left eye, and the left side of his face remains partially paralyzed from the injury.

“I think it is going to be a glorious day,” he told the bullfighting news site Mundotoro in a televised interview in the run-up to his return to the arena.

“I have lived every day intensely preparing, basically working on my recovery with physiotherapy and speech therapy,” he said, describing his comeback as a “dream bullfight”.

It may seem a bizarre dream to some, considering what Padilla went through in his last fight.

On October 7, he slipped in front of an enraged bull in a bullring in Zaragoza, northeastern Spain, after piercing the beast’s back with two sharp, barbed “banderillas”.

Watched by shocked crowds, the bull plunged a sharp, curved horn through the left side of the sprawling bullfighter’s upper jaw and out through the left eye socket, forcing the eye to bulge outwards.

The force of the blow dragged the matador about half a body-length across the bullring.

Padilla, dressed in a gold and pink traditional “suit of lights”, then stood clutching the wound as blood poured from his face. He began to collapse as fellow matadors supported him out of the ring.

He was raced to intensive care at the Miguel Servet Hospital where surgeons performed a five-hour operation, fixing the broken parts of his face with titanium plates.

When he emerged from the emergency operation, Padilla vowed the same day to “put on the bullfighter’s clothes again because that is how it is written in this profession”.

Since then, he has undergone further surgery to try to regain movement in his face and vision in his eye, which suffered drastic damage to the optic nerve.

The bullfighter said he had been boosted by the support of fellow matadors, stock breeders, friends, family and fans.

“I have reached a point in my technical ability and my health — I will be fine for the day,” Padilla told Mundotoro.

“The fans have been with me, supporting me throughout this. Now it is my turn to give it back to them in the ring.”