Tony Stewart's return to race track ends early

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Tony Stewart's return to race track ends early
Sprint Cup drivers Tony Stewart, right, and Ryan Newman, left, share a laugh prior to qualifying at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Friday, March 27, 2015. Rain delayed the practice and qualifying for Sunday's STP 500 Sprint Cup race. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 28: Tony Stewart drives the #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart gets into his car prior to qualifying at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Friday, March 27, 2015. Rain delayed the practice and qualifying for Sunday's STP 500 Sprint Cup race. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
FONTANA, CA - MARCH 20: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart high-fives race fans before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16,2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Danica Patrick, followed by Tony Stewart, greets fans before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/David Graham)
Tony Stewart prepares for the Ford EcoBoost 400 auto race practice, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Tony Stewart prepares for the Ford EcoBoost 400 auto race practice, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
Tony Stewart takes turn four during practice session for the NASCAR auto race Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Fla., Friday, Nov. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart gets in his car before practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/David Graham)
Danica Patrick followed by Tony Stewart high-five race fans before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16,2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart waves to the crowd before the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga. Stewart was racing for the first time since being involved in a fatal dirt track accident in upstate New York. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tony Stewart (14) drives into the first turn at the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga. Stewart was racing for the first time since his car struck and killed a fellow driver during a sprint race in New York three weeks ago. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) drives his damaged car to the garage after hitting the wall during a NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga.. (AP Photo/Joe Sebo)
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) looks over the damage to his car after he hit the wall during a NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga.. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
HAMPTON, GA - AUGUST 31: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, walks through the garage area with NASCAR security after an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
HAMPTON, GA - AUGUST 31: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, walks through the garage area with NASCAR security after an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
HAMPTON, GA - AUGUST 31: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
HAMPTON, GA - AUGUST 31: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, pulls into his garage stall after being involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) gets a tire during an NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga. Stewart was racing for the first time since being involved in a fatal dirt track incident in N.Y. (AP Photo/Bryn Anderson)
A fan shows his support for Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart before the start of an NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Ga. Stewart was racing for the first time since being involved in a fatal dirt track incident in upstate New York. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
In this Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 photograph, Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen N.Y. Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr., 20, a sprint car driver who had climbed from his car and was on the track trying to confront Stewart during a race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York on Saturday night. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department's investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was "fully cooperative" and appeared "very upset" over what had happened. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Video: NASCAR's Tony Stewart Hits And Kills Kevin Ward Jr After He Got Out Of Car To Complain http://t.co/2JiTbHd7Aj http://t.co/d4JAV8Mbiq
Sheriff says #TonyStewart investigation is not criminal. Stewart hits, kills driver on track. http://t.co/gGjTJkrmTK http://t.co/p8HovWh2ax
Driver Tony Stewart walks in the pit area after a practice session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Quicken Loans 400 auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Pic from witness of Sheriff's Deputies at Stewart's sprint car #TonyStewart http://t.co/Dfd8mp27x7
WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 08: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 08: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Driver Tony Stewart talks with his crew after practice for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Saturday, July 12, 2014 in Loudon, NH (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Tony Stewart prepares to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway Monday, April 7, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ralph Lauer)
TURIN, NY - AUGUST 14: General view of a shirt for Kevin Ward Jr. is shown outside of South Lewis Senior High School following the funeral service on August 14, 2014 in Turin, New York. Ward was killed August 9, when he exited his car during a dirt track race and was struck by a car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
TURIN, NY - AUGUST 14: Mourners let balloons go following the funeral service for Kevin Ward Jr. at South Lewis Senior High School on August 14, 2014 in Turin, New York. Ward was killed August 9, when he exited his car during a dirt track race and was struck by a car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
TURIN, NY - AUGUST 14: Pallbearers help to carry the casket of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. at South Lewis Senior High School on August 14, 2014 in Turin, New York. Ward was killed August 9, when he exited his car during a dirt track race and was struck by a car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
TURIN, NY - AUGUST 14: Pallbearers help to carry the casket of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. at South Lewis Senior High School on August 14, 2014 in Turin, New York. Ward was killed August 9, when he exited his car during a dirt track race and was struck by a car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
TURIN, NY - AUGUST 14: a man walks past a hearse during the funeral service for sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. on August 14, 2014 in Turin, New York. Ward was killed August 9, when he exited his car during a dirt track race and was struck by a car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Canandaigua Motorsports Park is seen Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Canandaigua, N.Y. On Saturday night, Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr., 20, a sprint car driver who had climbed from his car and was on the track trying to confront Stewart during a race at the track in upstate New York. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department's investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was "fully cooperative" and appeared "very upset" over what had happened. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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BY PAUL NEWBERRY

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) - Tony Stewart's return to the track has ended only a little over halfway through his race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart hit the wall for the second time after his right front tire blew out on lap 172, ending his night. Stewart drove his battered car to the garage and then exited without speaking to reporters.

His crew chief Chad Johnston said the 14 team was disappointed, but will now start focusing on next weekend's race in Richmond, Virginia.

"I wish we could have had a better effort and a better finish for him," Johnston said. "We'll go on to Richmond and hope we can do better there."

Stewart first went into the wall earlier in Sunday night's race following a collision with Kyle Busch, requiring work to the right side of his car.

"I went into today with some pretty good hopes of finishing well," Johnston said, adding, "It just didn't work out."

Stewart skipped three NASCAR Sprint Cup races after his car struck and killed a fellow driver in a dirt-track race in upstate New York. He decided to return this week, needing to win either at Atlanta or the next race at Richmond to claim a spot in the Chase.

The three-time champion received a big cheer when he was introduced before the race. Starting in the 12th spot, Stewart ran in the top 10 early in the race, getting as high as fourth.

Then, on lap 122 after a restart, Busch's No. 18 machine got loose coming out of turn 2 and banged into Stewart, sending both cars against the wall.

Stewart carried on but dropped back to 21st.

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