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Billy Graham back home in Montreat

Billy Graham is back home for the holidays.

Fighting off his second bout of pneumonia this year, the 93-year-old evangelist was released from Mission Hospital in Asheville and returned to his mountain cabin in Montreat late this afternoon, according to his son, Franklin.

The elder Graham was hospitalized last Wednesday. Family members say he had been battling a cold and other respiratory problems since before Thanksgiving.

"The problem is that he likes the hospital," Franklin Graham told the Observer after his father's release. "All the nurses come in to see old Dr. Graham, and they pray for him, and the doctors come in and they talk to him. And he likes all the attention."

"Mission Hospital is a fine hospital. They do a tremendous job for all their patients, but they take a special interest in him."

Dr. Mark Hellreich, Graham's pulmonologist during his stay, said his patient made steady improvement - both from his response to antibiotics and in regaining his strength. According to a hospital statement, Graham will continue his rehabilitation at home, with the goal of resuming normal activities - including a new writing project - as soon as possible. Graham's 30th book, "Nearing Home," which contains his thoughts on finishing a life well, came out in October.

Graham has been hospitalized five times since 2007. This time, he made good on a pre-hospitalization pledge to be home to celebrate Christmas with his family.

"I am grateful for the many thoughts and prayers expressed by individuals across the country and around the world during my stay at Mission Hospital," Graham said, according to the hospital statement. "I also appreciate the wonderful treatment I received here from such caring doctors and nurses, and feel I have made some new friends.

"But I am especially looking forward to seeing my home decorated for Christmas and spending the holidays with members of my family."

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