After hosting the mourning moonwalkers at the Staples Centre, Los Angeles is bracing for the return of Mannywood at Dodger Stadium. Next Thursday, Manny Ramirez makes his long-awaited home comeback after serving a 50-game suspension for a doping violation. It should be a seamless transition for a city accustomed to oversized public spectacles, only too happy to forgive and forget the foibles of its favourite adopted sons. Dodger Stadium, after all, was where more than 17,000 tickets were distributed via drive-through - how else in car-worshipping California? - ahead of Michael Jackson's memorial service this week. A road trip and the All-Star break have delayed Ramirez's first appearance in front of LA fans since the start of his ban on May 7. After a brief stint with the Dodgers' Triple-A team in Albuquerque, the 37-year-old returned to action on July 3 in San Diego before travelling with the team to face the New York Mets. Although he was ejected in game one at Citi Field for angrily throwing equipment after striking out, Ramirez played his part in Los Angeles' strong form as they approached the halfway point of the season with the best record in baseball. But the Dodgers actually increased their division lead when their biggest drawcard was absent. Chasing their first World Series title since 1988 under former Yankees manager Joe Torre, the Dodgers acquired Ramirez last July in a trade from Boston. Teaming up with the 11-time All-Star seemed like a match made in heaven. That was until Ramirez admitted to using a banned drug used to re-start testosterone production when athletes come off a sustained period of steroid use. The timing couldn't have been worse for the Dodgers, who had Ramirez at the centre of a lavish marketing drive. Huge billboards, bus adverts and radio and television spots featuring Ramirez and the words: 'I'm Back' were hastily replaced by the 'This Is My Town' campaign, with photos of other Dodgers players and celebrities. Mannywood - the nickname for the leftfield section of Dodger Stadium for Ramirez devotees - was renamed 90090 after the zip code for the venue's neighbourhood of Chavez Ravine. Refunds were offered to disappointed fans. But in a stunning about-face, club officials have decided to reinstate Mannywood, 'due to popular demand', starting with the home comeback against Houston where Manny T-shirts will sell for US$30 and replica jerseys will go for US$280. Ramirez 'bobblehead' night - a tribute to the outfielder and his trademark hairstyle - is now expected to go ahead during the July 22 home game against Cincinnati. It's almost as if the Dodgers are welcoming back a triumphant hero who has overcome a career-threatening injury or personal tragedy instead of a self-confessed drug cheat, caught trying to cover his illegal tracks. Making the situation worse is the player's unrepentant demeanour. Refusing to address the issue of whether he took steroids or not, Ramirez offered a half-hearted apology to fans and his teammates, described his suspension as 'great ... not that bad' and joked about now having a 'criminal record'. Sports radio and television hosts went ballistic - nicknaming him 'Ram-Roid' (New York's Alex Rodriguez is 'A-Roid'), and suggesting that 25 per cent of his statistics be wiped clear to balance out the seasons when he might have been taking steroids. Thankfully, Ramirez wasn't selected for an All-Star team, missing out for the first time in a dozen years after a record 223.5 million votes nationwide. Torre may have swayed public sentiment after giving a flat 'no' when asked if Ramirez deserved to be picked. But every other indication is that the majority of fans will quickly overlook the stain on the Dominican Republic-born slugger's record. MLB's bosses are still paying the price for turning a blind eye to the excesses of hard-hitting heroes such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire - all subsequently tainted by drug links - in the crucial years that followed the 1994 strike. It was a desperate attempt to win back the faith of the fans through a feel-good, home-run record chase that may have been enhanced, in no small part, by artificial means. Even today, penalties for drug use remain relatively lenient: a 50-game ban for the first offence, 100 for the second and lifetime for the third means players still spin the roulette wheel in the quest for extra power. Instead, a first infraction should carry a minimum two-year suspension - in line with many other major sports - and the second must mean life. And, as a further deterrent in the sentiment-driven US sports market, a drug offence of any kind could also preclude entry into baseball's cherished Hall of Fame. But this is America, where money and success talk loudest. And in Los Angeles, the lines between sports and showbiz are more blurred than anywhere else. Dodger Stadium is just a 25-minute drive from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The city has seen four Lakers NBA titles since 2000, but if the Dodgers can end a 21-year drought by winning the World Series in October, you can be sure the name Manny Ramirez, confessed drugs cheat or not, will be almost as revered as those of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson.