A LLANELLI man described as "more popular than the Pope" is recovering well in hospital after suffering a stroke.
Messages of support from across the town poured in for Lewis Jones, known as Lewi, after he was taken to Prince Philip Hospital last week.
Mr Jones is a mainstay of Llanelli Warriors RFC, a team for players with learning disabilities, and has gained fame over the years as the club's linesman.
Friend, coach, and Warriors secretary Gwilym Lewis said Mr Jones remained in hospital, but was making progress towards recovery.
He said: "Lewi has started swallowing again and is able to take tablets and drink tea.
"His speech has returned to normal and he is getting the movement back in his right arm. He is even able to shake hands with more recent visitors. He is able to get around with his frame and hopefully he will continue to make progress with this."
The Warriors' Facebook and Twitter pages have received posts wishing him well, and last week the Star published a story full of tributes which helped to boost Mr Jones's spirits.
"He was very happy with his piece in the Star, especially the messages of support," said Mr Lewis.
"His favourite was from the Bradford side who are due to play the Warriors when they come down in March.
"It's also been good to tell him how much support he has received on websites like Facebook and Scarletfever, as well as the Warriors website.
"He speaks fondly of all the visitors he has had and the nurses have described him as more popular than the Pope.
"The Warriors' team mates who have visited him regularly have reported a gradual improvement — not just physically but also mentally. Less emotional and more like the Lewi of old."
Mr Lewis added: "He was disappointed to miss the Warriors trip to Cefneithin but hopes it won't be too long before he can get back onto the touch lines and back to Parc y Scarlets.
"He has given up the fags but is looking forward to half a bitter once he gets out of hospital."
In the past, Mr Jones has been honoured as Disabled Sportsman of the Year in Carmarthenshire Council's Learning Difficulties Sports Department awards.
He was a friend of rugby legend Ray Gravell, attending his wedding as a guest and Ray's wife Mari Gravell was among those to wish Mr Jones well.