Yao plays 12 minutes in Rockets return

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Houston Rockets' Yao Ming warms up for the Rockets' NBA preseason basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Hidalgo, Texas, Tuesday, Oct 5,2010.

HIDALGO, Texas - Yao Ming has played just 12 minutes for the Houston Rockets in his first game since undergoing surgery on his left foot in July 2009.

Yao played eight minutes in the first quarter and four in the second Tuesday before sitting out for good in Houston's 97-88 preseason loss to the Orlando Magic. He had three rebounds, one assist, hit three free throws and attempted just one shot.

Dwight Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Vince Carter added 14 points for Orlando. Howard had no problem dealing with the 7-foot-6 (2.29-meter) Yao in the scant minutes they faced each other and scored 10 points when the two covered each other.

Yao played about half of the 24 minutes the Rockets have said they will limit him to this season. They will consult with doctors as the season progresses to see if he might be able to handle more. Houston is eager to have him back in any capacity after going 42-40 and missing the playoffs.

The 30-year-old seven-time All-Star has averaged more than 19 points and nine rebounds since he was drafted first overall in 2002. He jogged onto the court a couple of minutes after his teammates to some of the loudest applause of the night as fans stood up and snapped pictures while shouting his name.

Houston was led by Kevin Martin's 14 points, while Courtney Lee added 12 and Aaron Brooks 11.

This was a unique setting for an NBA game in a town of just over 7,400 directly across the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

Houston's Argentinian forward Luis Scola delivered a welcome message to the fans in Spanish before mariachis performed the national anthem.

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The Houston Rockets' Chinese centre Yao Ming returns to court in his first NBA game since having left foot surgery in July of last year, for a pre-season game with the Orlando Magic,Oct 5, 2010.

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Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (11) is defended by Orlando Magic' Marcin Gortat during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game Tuesday, Oct 5, 2010, in Hidalgo, Texas.