Heckled Australian Football League (AFL) player Adam Goodes returned to the field with 12 touches and a goal but it was not enough to prevent a 32-points loss for Sydney Swans against Geelong Cats.

The player had ruled himself out of an AFL fixture last weekend, sparking fears he may quit the game after being the target of a barrage of heckling by opposing fans throughout this season.

Inside Story - Accusations of racism in Australian football

The Aboriginal player had been given indefinite leave following the badgering.

However, he returned amid wide support from fans inside the stadium, including a video message on the big screen from Geelong players urging respect from the crowd.

Australia's race discrimination commissioner had earlier said the abuse of Goodes, 35, had gone beyond sport and become a blight on the country, and a campaign on social media, #IStandWithAdam, quickly gained momentum.

Tens of thousands of Australians posted messages of support and photographs of themselves with Goodes' playing number 37 on Twitter, in a campaign backed by Australian celebrities Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman and Hugo Weaving.

Aborigines are the nation's most disadvantaged population, with few making it as elite athletes.

Goodes has won the Brownlow Medal, the highest award for the AFL's best and fairest player, twice; in 2003 and 2006.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies