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Dan Rooney Steps down as Ambassador, Returns Home

Pittsburgh Steelers chairman and co-owner Dan Rooney has stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The embassy in Dublin said the 80-year-old Rooney resigned Friday and returned to the United States. Press officer John Murphy said Rooney met with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and President Michael Higgins during a final round of engagements this week.

Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore hosted a farewell dinner for Rooney on Wednesday, but news of his imminent departure was kept secret, even though the resignation had been expected for some time. Murphy said the ambassador met embassy staff on Friday morning for goodbyes before heading to Dublin Airport for a flight to Pittsburgh.

Rooney, the grandson of an Irish immigrant, supported the campaign of President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary and then campaigned for him in the general election.

It's not clear what future role Rooney will have with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has made it a habit to return to the state for Steelers home games.

On Saturday, Rooney and his wife Patricia reportedly plan to attend a memorial service in Milton, Mass., for their daughter Rita, who died Dec. 1.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.