A former Premier League player who was convicted of rape has been released from jail amid a national debate about whether he should be allowed to play professionally again.

Wales international Ched Evans left a prison in northern England early Friday after serving half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel.

The 25-year-old Evans' release was confirmed on a website run by his family which says the former Manchester City player "will continue the fight to clear his name."

Evans was playing for Sheffield United before being convicted, and the third-tier club has yet to say if he can return to the squad.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says United should "think really long and hard" before deciding whether to allow Evans back.