Jackson returns to the U.S.

After year in exile, musician settles back in States

Since Michael Jackson forsook his Neverland Ranch, the King of Pop has popped up in some very unexpected places.

He’s taken up residence in the Gulf state of Bahrain, in France and even in a castle in Ireland. He showed up in Augusta, Ga., to give a eulogy at James Brown’s funeral, and materialized in London to accept an award for his contributions to the world of pop music. Lately he’s been spotted in Las Vegas on his famed shopping sprees.

So where is he now?

In a rare conference call, the singer emerged with his spokeswoman Friday to confirm to the Associated Press that he is back in the United States after more than a year in self-imposed exile following his acquittal in a high-profile child molestation trial that ended in June 2005.

They also said he is on the comeback trail — planning a pair of “fan appreciation events” in Japan in March, one of which will charge $3,300 for the opportunity to meet the Gloved One.

“I can confirm that he is in the United States,” spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said. “We don’t give out information regarding our client’s whereabouts because of safety, and this is just an ongoing policy.”

During the brief conference call, Jackson read a statement prepared for the Associated Press about his plans to visit Japan and allowed only one question: How are you?

“I’m fine, thank you,” was his reply.

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