Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was discharged from the hospital Tuesday and headed straight back to get back to work less than 48 hours after suffering a minor stroke. "It seems that you have missed me," a smiling 77- year-old Sharon told reporters at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Kerem in his first public appearance since falling ill on Sunday night. "Now I must quickly get back to work and move forward," he said in a pun on the name of his new centrist party "Kadima", which means "forward" in Hebrew. The prime minister appeared rested if slightly drawn during his brief remarks to the press smiling broadly and joking with journalists who had crammed into the hospital hall. "I was excited by the Israeli citizens' concern over my health condition, and I wish to thank them from the bottom of my heart," he said. "I don't think it will affect my functioning," he added. After his release from the hospital, the premier headed straight to his Jerusalem residence, where he was briefed on affairs of state, and took calls from well-wishers, including US President George W. Bush. Bush told Sharon, "I hope that when I see you in two months, you will be a lot thinner after the diet you will begin." "Allow me to give you some pointers," the president noted, "first, eat healthy. Second, work out, and third, after reading your busy schedule, I must tell you, please spread it out." Doctors at the hospital said that the stroke left no permanent damage on Sharon but repeatedly urged the obese premier during his 40-hour hospitalization to begin a diet immediately. "Like many other people, he obviously could lose some weight," Hadassah Director General Shlomo Mor-Yossef observed. He noted that there were no major restrictions on Sharon's activities. "We recommend that he gradually resume his regular schedule over the next few days," he added. Before leaving the hospital Sharon was briefed by his military secretary, and posed for pictures with the hospital staff --including an Arab nurse - who treated him in the internal medicine department, aides and hospital officials said. "We wish him well and our hearts are with him because he is the only one who can lead the country," said Dina Isuk, 54, who was at the hospital ward with her elderly father, a view that was echoed by multiple patients hospitalized in the department with the heavily-guarded premier, who was given a nondescript modest room in the ward, with an adjoining washroom. Department head Professor Yaron Ilan said that Sharon was a "paragon patient" who did not disturb other patients, despite the tight security ring around him, adding that he wore the same hospital pajamas that all patients were issued, slept on standard hospital sheets, and ate the regular hospital food. For their part, Sharon's aides, who together with dozens of secret service agents had closeted themselves in the hospital with the hugely popular prime minister over the last two days, pledged that they would do their best to change the premier's infamous culinary habits following their boss' health scare which rattled the nation. "The prime minister is a man who already has a few years behind him. He has certain habits that I think are difficult to change," Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon told Israeli Army Radio. "Regarding the culinary issues, maybe it's more difficult, but we will all pitch in." A day before suffering the stroke, Sharon reportedly dined on hamburgers, steak in chimichurri sauce, lamb chops, shish kebab and an array of salads, according to the Israeli daily Ma'ariv. For dessert, Sharon had double servings of chocolate cake.