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Pelé's condition improving in hospital
01:13 - Source: CNN

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Soccer star Pele should be taken off dialysis early Sunday, hospital says

He went into hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this week for a urinary tract infection

The hospital says the 74-year-old is getting better as he's being treated in the ICU

Pele is a three-time World Cup champion and shared Player of the Century award

CNN  — 

He may be a long way from the football field, but Pele at least is back to talking and getting better at a Sao Paulo, Brazil, hospital.

The city’s Albert Einstein Hospital issued a statement Saturday saying the football legend – born Edson Arantes do Nascimento – was improving but still in intensive care battling an illness.

Pele is lucid, talking and responding to antibiotics, the hospital said. He remains on temporary dialysis, which was a reason he was moved to the ICU in the first place, because the machine he needed was there.

The hospital issued a second statement later Saturday, indicating that Pele continues to recover and that doctors plan to take him off dialysis early Sunday.

Earlier this week, the 74-year-old was admitted to the medical facility – the same place he recently underwent surgery to remove kidney stones – for a urinary tract infection.

The athletic icon had one kidney removed during this days as a player, his aide, Jose Fornos Rodrigues, told CNN.

Pele tweeted Thursday that he was looking forward to spending the holidays with family and starting “the new year with renewed health, with many international trips planned.”

“I am blessed to receive your love and support,” Pele said, “and thank God this is nothing serious.”

Known as “The Black Pearl” and simply “The King,” Pele is one of the best known names in all of sports.

He burst onto the scene as a teenager, helping lead his native Brazil to the 1958 World Cup championship. Pele went on to star on two other World Cup title teams as well, in 1962 and 1970, in addition to a breakthrough career with the Brazilian club Santos and later with the New York Cosmos of the now-defunct North American Soccer League.

In 2000, he and Argentina’s Diego Maradona were named co-Players of the Century by FIFA, the international soccer governing body.

Even after retiring from football, Pele has remained in the public eye as a product pitchman, ambassador for the sport of football and advocate for Brazil’s poor, having grown up as one of them in the inland city of Tres Coracoes.

CNN’s Barbara Arvanitidis and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.