Simoncelli's body flown home
Rome - The body of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli arrived back in Italy on Tuesday following a fatal accident in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Simoncelli's father, Paolo, and fellow rider Valentino Rossi were aboard the flight that arrived at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci airport near dawn and they were greeted by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci.
A public viewing of Simoncelli's body is planned for Wednesday in the city theatre of his hometown, Coriano, with the funeral scheduled for Thursday.
Simoncelli died of chest, head and neck injuries after he lost control of his Honda on Sunday and swerved across the track, straight into the path of American rider Colin Edwards and Rossi.
Rossi, the seven-time world champion, was a good friend of Simoncelli's.
"Marco was a star and I'll never forget him," said the normally radiant Rossi, who was wearing a black hat and sweatshirt.
"There are a lot of memories that I'll hold onto. We were together every day, we trained together and racing was our passion. We already knew that this was something that can happen."
Rossi, who is struggling with Ducati this season, dismissed speculation that he might retire in the aftermath of the crash.
"I never said that. It was probably made up just to sell newspapers," Rossi said.
Simoncelli, who was 24, was a rising star in the sport and with his trademark mop of curly hair was beloved by Italy's legions of motorcycle racing fans.
He won the 250cc world title in 2008 and was predicted by many to be a future MotoGP world champion.
Petrucci ordered a minute's silence before all football matches on Sunday and players wore black armbands as a tribute to the young rider.
"On Sunday when we held a minute's silence there was a total demonstration of how much this kid was loved," Petrucci said.
"We're here to demonstrate the love and affection for this kid."