Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry will take up an invitational tour card to compete on the World Snooker Tour for at least the next two seasons.

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Hendry retired from the sport after the 2012 World Championship after a run to the Crucible quarter-finals, which saw him compile the 11th maximum break of his career.

However, after eight years away from the tour, the 51-year-old has taken the decision to return to the professional circuit. His invitational tour card will last a minimum of two seasons and he can accrue ranking prize money in the same way as all other players on the circuit.

Hendry has amassed a staggering 36 ranking titles over his career. Only Ronnie O’Sullivan, who claimed his 37th ranking crown at the World Championship last month, has won more.

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Hendry’s seven Crucible titles - his last coming in 1999 - are unparalleled in the sport. He topped the world rankings for eight consecutive years between 1990 and 1998.

The first tournament Hendry will be eligible to play in will be the European Masters, which runs from 21st to 27th September, and he is excited to make his comeback.

"I’m excited to have the opportunity to enter some tournaments over the coming two seasons," Hendry said.

I’ve really enjoyed picking up my cue again recently at the World Seniors and I feel a little more confident in my game. I’ve always missed the buzz of competing and although I have no expectations in terms of performance, this felt like a good time to explore getting back to the table.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: "I am thrilled that Stephen has decided to return to the tour. He is a giant of the sport and I know that all eyes will be on him every time he takes to the table in the coming months.

"It’s great to know that Stephen’s competitive fires are still burning and given his extraordinary achievements, it was a no brainer to offer him the opportunity to come back. I wish Stephen all the very best for the two seasons ahead."

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