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Brian Lara: 'I love you, president Mandela'
West Indian cricketing legend Brian Lara on Tuesday met another hero, former South African president Nelson Mandela.

West Indian cricketing legend Brian Lara on Tuesday met another hero, former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Arriving at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, clad in a black suit, Lara looked nervous before meeting Madiba.

A jovial Mandela, leaning into his walking stick and supported on his other arm by his personal assistant Zelda la Grange, greeted Lara enthusiastically in the foyer before coming out to greet the media.

Mandela looked sprightly on the spring afternoon, dressed in a grey-patterned signature "Madiba shirt". He warmly greeted about 30 photographers and journalists.

Lara presented Mandela with a cricket bat, which he had "unfortunately used against South Africa and scored a couple of hundreds".

Mandela examined the inscription on the bat and then enquired whether there was a bowler present.

"I think I should start playing cricket," he quipped.

The signed cricket bat read: "To a man that has inspired the world. I love you, president Mandela. My best wishes to a personal hero."

The left-handed batsman, who holds world records for the highest individual scores in both first-class and Test cricket, expressed regret that he could not meet Mandela when the former president was in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean last year.

Mandela had accompanied Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a three-day visit to whip up support for South Africa to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

"I asked," Madiba said playfully, "but he didn't want to meet me."

Mandela said it is an honour to have Lara in South Africa, to which Lara responded that he had looked forward to the meeting.

Lara, who is in South Africa to play two matches for the Jacques Kallis Benefit, called Mandela an inspiration and said he is an "absolute hero".

Before returning to the building, Mandela was besieged by journalists and photographers who dropped their news sense for a few minutes to grab an opportunity to shake hands with and be photographed with the legend.

He happily accommodated them before accepting La Grange's urges that he return inside. -- Sapa