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RETURNED. MOHAMMED ZAHIR SHAH, 87, former King of Afghanistan; to his country, for the first time since being deposed 29 years ago; to open a national council that will choose a new transitional government in June. In his emotional homecoming, during which he visited his assassinated father's war-torn grave, Zahir Shah said, "I want to serve the people of Afghanistan."

DIED. LAYNE STALEY, 34, tortured front man of the grunge metal band Alice in Chains; of undetermined causes; in Seattle. Staley's brooding lyrics often invoked his heroin addiction. "When I tried drugs, they were [expletive] great," Staley told Rolling Stone magazine in 1996. "Now I'm walking through hell."

Mind & Body Happiness
Jan. 17, 2004

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DIED. ROBERT URICH, 55, ruggedly handsome TV-series stalwart; of synovial-cell sarcoma, a rare cancer of the body's joints that the optimistic Urich lectured about regularly in an effort to educate and to raise money for fighting the disease; in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Much loved as private eye Dan Tanna in the late-'70s drama Vega$ and as a Boston detective in Spenser: For Hire, Urich also appeared in the '70s sitcom Soap, the film Turk 182!, the Emmy Award-winning mini-series Lonesome Dove and, in 1998, as the ship's captain in a revived version of Love Boat.

DIED. RUTH FERTEL, 75, who as a divorced mother with no business experience mortgaged her home to buy a steak house that spawned a $330 million-a-year worldwide chain, Ruth's Chris Steak House; of lung cancer; in New Orleans.

DIED. DAMON KNIGHT, 79, science-fiction author and critic whose darkly wry short story To Serve Man became a famous episode of TV's Twilight Zone; in Eugene, Ore. An early member, with Isaac Asimov, of the influential writers' group the Futurians, Knight, in 1956, wrote In Search of Wonder, considered among the most important works of science-fiction criticism. The title To Serve Man refers to the name of a manual carried by aliens promising to end Earth's war and hunger. The manual turns out to be a cookbook.

DIED. BYRON WHITE, 84, last surviving member of the Warren Supreme Court, who won renown first as a college and pro football player and then as an even-keeled, defiantly independent jurist; of complications from pneumonia; in Denver. Known for his speed--and record rushing yardage and pay--as a defensive back for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and Detroit Lions in the late '30s and early '40s, the Rhodes scholar never shook his nickname, Whizzer, much to his ire. Appointed to the court in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy after serving as Robert Kennedy's deputy Attorney General, White consistently supported civil rights but took conservative stands on some of the era's divisive issues, dissenting in Miranda v. Arizona, which required police to read criminal suspects their rights, and siding with the antiabortion bloc in Roe v. Wade.

DIED. THOR HEYERDAHL, 87, unorthodox Norwegian adventurer-anthropologist who in 1947 sailed the Kon-Tiki, a tiny balsa raft, from Peru to an island near Tahiti in an attempt to prove his unorthodox theory that the Polynesian Islands could have been settled by prehistoric Peruvians, not by Southeast Asians; of brain cancer; on the Italian Riviera. The so-called Kon-Tiki man did not sway scholars, who dismissed him as an amateur, but his 4,300-mile, 101-day journey across the Pacific riveted the public, spawning his internationally best-selling memoir, Kon-Tiki, and an Oscar-winning documentary on the voyage.