Europa League - Tearful Muamba watches Spurs win

Former Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest and almost died playing at Tottenham Hotspur in March, made an emotional return to White Hart Lane for the first time on Thursday.

The 24-year-old's heart stopped beating for 78 minutes hours but remarkably he made a full recovery after being rushed by ambulance to the nearby London Chest Hospital.

Cardiologist Andrew Deaner also leapt from his seat in the White Hart Lane crowd to aid the stricken midfielder.

On Thursday night the former England Under-21 international, who has since retired from football, returned to the home of the north London club during their Europa League Group J clash against Maribor.

Muamba emerged from the tunnel at half-time to a huge standing ovation from the home support and went over and pointed to the exact spot where he collapsed nearly seven months ago.

He then dabbed away tears before addressing the crowd. Struggling to get his words out, an emotional Muamba said: "I can't express... All I can say is thanks to the Tottenham fans the way they reacted (when he collapsed). There are people out there who prayed for me. I want to thank the chairman, and to all the Spurs fans. I am grateful to them. They are awesome fans."

Muamba's collapse caused a huge outpouring of sympathy from leading figures within the game.

He has spent his recent time writing an autobiography and has also been trying to raise awareness about heart problems.

"We just want to raise money so everyone has their heart checked," he added. "Today I wanted to visit that place one more time for closure.

In the match itself, Emmanuel Adebayor started his first game of the season but it was Jermain Defoe who caught the eye with a clinical hat-trick in a 3-1 win for Tottenham.