George Steinbrenner turns 80 on Sunday. He has not granted an interview since 2007 and is believed to be in declining health. In a recent book on Steinbrenner, author Bill Madden said sources told him Steinbrenner had a series of Transient Ischemic Attacks (also called mini strokes) in 2006. But Steinbrenner gave at least three print interviews after that year and was characterized as lucid by the reporters. Others have said he appears distant and uncommunicative.

Steinbrenner was at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day of this season but has not returned since.

While the media has no access to Steinbrenner nowadays, publicist Howard Rubenstein steadfastly denied that the boss has a serious illness.

"He always said he wanted to have the young elephants come into the tent and run the show," Rubenstein said. "That was his wish for years. He would say it, it never happened until fairly recently. How is George? Well, he has football knees, so he can’t walk. He’s really had trouble walking and he did not undergo knee replacement. I talk to him fairly often and he certainly follows his team."

Rubenstein denied Steinbrenner has ever suffered a stroke. "Rumors of a stroke years ago were dispelled by his own doctor. [ Andrew Boyer, Steinbrenner’s longtime physician, did not return a call from Newsday]. As far as I know, he never had a stroke and he's certainly not Alzheimer's. When I see him he says 'How’s Amy,' that’s my wife. I would say that all the rumors swirling around are not accurate, they are not true. They are painting a false picture of George Steinbrenner. It's false."

Steinbrenner made a public appearance last month in Tampa at a school named after him, but did not speak at the dedication. "He hasn’t sought self promotion or self publicity,’’ Rubenstein said. "He never lets me put out releases about all the charity work he does. Over the years I say `George, let’s promote that, let me publicize that,' he says absolutely not. He has a modesty about him that’s really refreshing because it goes against what a lot of people think. He is a modest man, he really has never liked to make speeches, ever.’’

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Rubenstein said Steinbrenner remains fiery, but behind the scenes. ``He still has a temper, believe me, he’s not shown it in public. His personality remains, but he doesn’t do that in public. He really lets you know what’s on his mind.’’

Rubenstein said Steinbrenner is aware that many people believe he is ill or impaired. ``It doesn’t bother him, he's happy that his kids are up front. It’s up to him to decide what he wants his public persona to be, totally up to him.’’