Clinton cheered upon return to work

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WASHINGTON -- Cheers, a standing ovation and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work yesterday after a monthlong absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain.

A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a "contact sport, sometimes even in your own home" then presented Clinton with a gift -- a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.

She was also given a blue football jersey with "Clinton" and the number 112 -- the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of state -- printed on the back. Aides said Clinton was delighted with the gifts but did not try either of them on.

"She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then, being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

At the meeting, Clinton stressed the need to implement a review board's recommendations for improving the security at high-threat diplomatic posts, officials said. Clinton said she wanted to see all 29 of the recommendations from the independent Accountability Review Board in place by the time her successor takes over.

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President Barack Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to replace Clinton, who had long said she would step down after four years.

The review board, created after the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, criticized leadership and management at two State Department bureaus that allowed the post to be inadequately protected.

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