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Preparing to mount a comeback to the professional wrestling circuit, Davey Boy Smith appeared to be in peak physical form when he died suddenly on the weekend at the age of 39.

Family members said yesterday he succumbed, apparently to a heart attack, in his sleep Saturday while visiting the resort community of Invermere in British Columbia's interior.

"The sad thing is he was getting back into heavy-duty shape," said Smith Hart, the eldest child in Stu and Helen Hart's wrestling family dynasty.

"That leads me to speculate or wonder about the steroid use. My thoughts are that he was overdoing it a bit lately because he wanted to look good for the [May]28 show, when Vince McMahon will be here."

Next week, Calgary plays host to Mr. McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Smackdown event.

Mr. Smith was apparently planning to meet with the WWE boss about a possible return to the squared circle, including a shtick with his former wife, Diana Hart, and their 15-year-old son Harry, now touring on the Stampede Wrestling circuit.

Fans and family were shocked by the news that Mr. Smith had become the latest victim of a string of tragedies and soap-opera-style twists to hit Calgary's Hart family.

Owen Hart died on the Victoria Day long weekend three years ago after a wrestling stunt went wrong in Missouri. Family matriarch Helen Hart, 76, died last fall of complications from diabetes.

Born David Smith in Manchester, England, Davey Boy, also known as the British Bulldog, gained a reputation -- not always a good one -- both inside and outside the ring.

Mr. Smith had been charged with threatening his now ex-wife, one of her sisters and his brother-in-law. Excruciating back problems had him hooked on painkillers. In Diana Hart's tell-all book Under the Mat: Inside Wrestling's Greatest Family, she wrote about sexual abuse and being drugged by her husband. Mr. Smith was also recently dating Andrea Hart, the estranged wife of Bruce Hart, another member of the wrestling family.

Mr. Smith was travelling with Andrea when he died.

But the British Bulldog appeared to be getting his life back in order.

Mr. Smith paired up with his 6-foot-4, 209-pound son for a tag-team match last week in Winnipeg. He saw his 14-year-old daughter Georgia on Friday and said he felt as though he had the flu.

Arrangements for a memorial service haven't been made.

"I just think Davey would like to have a celebration," Diana Hart said.