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Michael Jackson hospitalized after fireworks mishap on set of Pepsi commercial

By JEFF HASEN

LOS ANGELES -- Superstar Michael Jackson, hospitalized with burns from fireworks that ignited his hair during filming of a commercial, was quietly discharged from a hospital Saturday against his doctor's recommendation.

Dr. Steve Hoefflin said he believed it was best for Jackson to stay at Brotman Memorial Hospital, but reluctantly agreed to his release at 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST). Hours earlier, he had told reporters Jackson would be hospitalized 'for several days.'

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'We recommended that Michael stay, but we determined this could be done as well out of the hospital as in the hospital,' Hoefflin said. 'Despite our recommendation, he felt he did want to be treated as an outpatient.

'He was quite happy. He felt better after a good night's sleep. He's in excellent health and was showing very rapid signs of recovery. He's very pleased it was not more of a severe burn.'

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Hoefflin said he did not know where Jackson planned to go.

Jackson, 25, was dancing down a stairway at the Shrine Auditorium Friday night in a scene for a multi-million dollar Pepsi commercial when a special effects smoke bomb apparently misfired and set his pomade-slicked hair ablaze.

Nurse Pat Lavalas, the burn unit supervisor, said Jackson was in good spirits Saturday morning and he received many telephone calls, including get-well wishes from singers Teddy Pendergrass and Stephanie Mills.

'He left in good spirits and his condition is good,' she said. 'He didn't speak about the accident to us. He watched 'American Bandstand' this morning and people were getting his autograph.

'He sang a Stephanie Mills song in the bathroom. He stayed in bed and opened telegrams, and he got a big kick out of one from a fan that said, 'I know you're hot, but this is ridiculous,'' the nurse said.

Just hours before Jackson's secretive departure, Hoefflin told reporters the singer was in satisfactory condition with second-degree burns and a small third-degree burn on the back of his head.

'He's in moderate pain, he's much more tired than we anticipated. He needs sleep at this time,' Hoefflin told reporters at a hospital news conference.

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He said Jackson may require reconstructive surgery.

Jackson, the country's top singer, won seven American Music Awards earlier this month and picked up a record 12 Grammy nominations. Hoefflin said Jackson will be able to attend the Feb. 28 Grammy presentations at the Shrine 'if he feels up to it.'

A spokesman for Jackson said the singer requested that a tape of the accident be made public as soon as the film can be processed.

'Michael wants to make certain that his fans know exactly what happened,' Larry Larson told reporters at the hospital.

Asked if Jackson was contemplating a lawsuit, he said, 'There's no indication at this point.'

Hospital officials said the medical center had been inundated with thousands of phone calls since Jackson arrived and a spokesman pleaded with the public to stop calling, saying emergency calls could not get through.

The singer's 'Thriller' album topped the music charts last year, placing an unprecedented six singles -- including 'Billie Jean' and 'Beat It' -- in the top 10 and spawning several popular videos.

The accident Friday night occurred before a horrified audience of about 3,000 people who won tickets to the taping from a local radio station.

One witness told United Press International that Jackson removed his jacket without breaking stride and tried to put out the fire.

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'There was supposed to be an explosion for his big entrance,' Daryoush Maze, 25, an extra in the cast, said. 'As he went off, an explosion went off and there was blue smoke all around his head and neck. There were no flames, just blue smoke from the stuff he had in his hair.

'It seemed like it was part of the show. He was doing it very professionally, still dancing. He's a good trouper.'

About a block from Jackson's boyhood home, nearly 1,000 people clad in their Sunday best jammed into a small, stuffy basketball gym to hear the candidate speak.

After a church choir sang a few hymns, Jackson's mother, wearing a deep blue dress and a 'Jackson in '84' button, triumphantly introduced her son to the throng.

Jackson took the stage and led the audience in his familiar 'I am somebody' chant.

'Our mission is justice at home and peace abroad,' he told the townspeople. 'I've watched the growth of this city and this state and I see the need for more growth.

'We have the need this day to have a spirit of redemption and reconciliation -- to rise above historic divisions that have stunted our growth. This is a period for us to beat our swords into plowshares.'

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Jackson spoke of Greenville as once being the textile capital of the world, and noted the slump in the industry today that has put thousands out of work.

He called for an end to the 'dislocation of the textile industry.'

'This generation must realize when a plant closes, it closes without notice. Men cannot feed their families; mothers cannot nourish their children. That kind of reckless economic conduct must challenge us to open a new economic order.'

Jackson also visited a small bar that sponsors a softball team Jackson played on during the 1960s.

The presidential hopeful was the team's starting first baseman.

'He's a long-ball hitter,' said Charles Chiles, a patron of the establishment who remembers Jackson's days on the softball field.

Jackson also climbed onto the fender of a brown Cadillac parked near the bar during the afternoon and urged about 200 onlookers to register to vote.

'You can help me and you can help yourself,' he said. 'If we register to vote our children will not have to grow up as we did. They can get jobs. They can develop and grow.

'We can not only hang around on the corner, we can own the corner.'

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