Zidane returns to his parents' country of birth

Zinedine Zidane returned to the birthplace of his parents Monday for the first time in 20 years.

The three-time world player of the year from France arrived in the country as a special guest of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Zidane will stay for five days and visit the area of Boumerdes, which was badly hit by an earthquake in May 2003, and a day-care center and hospitals in several regions.

Money from a match between France's national team and Marseille, organized by Zidane for earthquake victims, was used to help fund the construction of several establishments.

Zidane was surrounded by fans upon his arrival. On Wednesday, he and his family will be greeted by Bouteflika at a ceremony honoring the 1998 World Cup champion.

On Thursday, he is to kick off a match between two Algerian teams - one from his home region of Bejaia.

Zidane will then visit his family's home village of Aguemoun on Friday. The Frenchman last visited the village in the lower Kabylie region in 1986 when he was 14.

"Today, he is making the same trip but as a hero," said Abdallah Zerouklane, the mayor of the nearby town of Boukhelifa.

Zidane became a symbol of a multicultural France after winning the 1998 World Cup and is adored in Algeria. He also helped France win the 2000 European Championship, the AP says.

He retired after helping reach the final of this year's World Cup, but left the game with a red card after head-butting Italy defender Marco Materazzi in extra time. Italy then won the title on penalty kicks.

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