Exiled Bonds enjoying his freedom away from baseball

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SAN FRANCISCO --- Barry Bonds made a rare public appearance Tuesday and said he is enjoying life away from baseball.

"I'm happy now that I have more time," Bonds told the crowd at the kickoff event of the Macy's Christmas tree lighting. "I've actually enjoyed myself immensely."

Bonds, honorary chair of this year's lighting, did not talk to reporters and left quickly after giving a brief speech during the 30-minute ceremony. Lights adorning the large tree in Union Square are sold to benefit the UCSF Children's Hospital palliative care program, and nearly $700,000 has been raised during the past five years.

Bonds was questioned by a young patient about potentially returning to baseball.

"I had fun," Bonds said. "But I like my freedom."

Bonds has donated time and money to the program, playing host to golf tournaments and visiting patients and their families. He passed out autographed baseball cards of himself and politely chatted with several patients, many confined to wheelchairs.

"We all go through adversities and tragedies," Bonds told the crowd, which greeted him with a standing ovation.

The tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 28.

Bonds pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of making false declarations to a federal grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice, and his trial is scheduled to start March 2. Bonds is accused of lying when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs during 2003 grand jury testimony.

The 44-year-old Bonds hit 762 career homers


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