(CNN) -- Multiple Olympic champion Michael Phelps qualified for the 200m freestyle final at the Charlotte Ultraswim meet as he returned to competition for the first time since last summer's Beijing Games.
Phelps qualified for the 200m freestyle final on his return to action after a three-month ban.
Phelps recently completed a three-month suspension imposed by USA Swimming following the publication of a picture apparently showing him using illegal drugs.
But he looked solid as he finished second behind Davis Tarwater in the 15th and final heat of an event in which he possesses four of the fastest five times in history, including the world record.
The 23-year-old's mark of one minute 50.46 seconds at the Mecklenburg County Athletic Centre in North Carolina was the third fastest qualifying time for the final later on Friday.
Phelps' coach Bob Bowman declared himself happy with his swimmer's first race back. "I think that was pretty good, about what I expected," Bowman told reporters afterwards. "I think that would be a normal prelim swim for him at any time so it's pretty good."
The American, who won a single Games record of eight gold medals in the pool in Beijing to eclipse compatriot Mark Spitz's previous mark of seven set in 1972, later returned to the pool to win his 100m butterfly heat in 53.41 seconds, having pulled clear of Aaron Peirsol and Tarwater in the closing meters.
On Saturday, he is scheduled to go in the 50m freestyle and the 100m backstroke, finishing off on Sunday with the 100m freestyle.
Phelps' choice of events signals a change in tactics as the American turns his focus to the build-up to the 2012 Olympics in London, with a new emphasis on shorter distance events.