Street thugs almost cut short motocross stunt star Luke Smith's comeback to the big time at North Harbour Stadium.
But that didn't stop him taking part in the Nitro Circus Tour on Saturday - four years after a horror crash that nearly killed him.
His 2009 accident left him unconscious for 25 minutes and placed in an induced coma for eight days, spending four and a half months in hospital.
Injuries included frontal lobe damage and brain swelling on the left side. His sense of balance was affected, he suffered short-term memory loss and had to relearn basic motor skills.
"Then I had to re-learn simple things most people take for granted such as walking and standing upright," he said.
''I battled some horrible demons and there were times when I almost took my life.
''I shut myself away from the world, gave away all of my bike gear and lots of stuff that reminded me of bikes and tried to block it out.''
Luke astounded medical experts one year later by competing in high-speed racing and becoming a champion drift-driver before being tempted back to two wheels.
The Auckland rider performed on Saturday with a broken jaw after being bashed on a night out with friends in Auckland.
Luke, once an international drawcard with the Crusty Demons, thrilled the big crowd with hair-raising solo stunts despite the injury.
His attitude has not changed since he was a nine-year-old, when neighbours called him "that crazy kid along the road".
"That was when I started lining up kids in the street and jumping over them on my BMX bike," he said.
"The best I could manage was about 11 kids."
He broke his back twice before that 2009 crash. By then he had thrilled audiences in 16 countries and become leader of the sensational Moto Mayhem team as well as a member of the Crusty Demons.
"Since I was very young my parents have got used to collecting me from some hospital or other."
He hadn't fully recovered from yet another injury - a badly broken ankle - when he and another rider performed stunts, including his trademark backflips, at the Waitakere Lions Cracker Christmas show at The Trusts Stadium in December.
- Auckland Now
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