SAN FRANCISCO - Home run king Barry Bonds said he is "proud" of slugger Mark McGwire for returning to baseball as the Cardinals' hitting coach and for admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have a really good friendship with Mark McGwire. I'm proud of him," Bonds said yesterday. "We've had a great relationship throughout our entire lives and throughout our career. I'm proud of what he did. I'm happy for him."

In January, after more than a decade of denials and evasion, McGwire finally admitted he used steroids and human growth hormone during his career, including in 1998, when he hit a record 70 home runs.

Bonds, who topped that mark with 73 in 2001, has long denied ever knowingly using steroids or performance-enhancers in his pursuit of the career record for home runs.

McGwire was told of Bonds' comments in Milwaukee, where the Cardinals were playing the Brewers.

"It's very cool. Barry was a great player in this game, many MVPs," McGwire said. "The guy could do it all. It makes me feel really good. It's really cool to be back in the game.''

Bonds, 45, was at AT&T Park for a reunion of the Giants' 2000 NL West champions. He has made only a handful of public appearances in San Francisco since the Giants decided not to bring him back after the 2007 season, when he broke Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs.

"It goes by quick. The sports world eventually comes to an end," said Bonds, who hit 762 homers. "Your body can only do so much. Just be grateful for the time you have. I'm very grateful."

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