Is this a peak experience? For 31 years, Jerry Sanders has led Advanced Micro Devices through a roller-coaster rivalry with Intel, gaining and losing ground to the chip giant in patent battles and in sales.

Now, Sanders is savoring unprecedented success. On Apr. 5, he said in Tokyo that AMD's first-quarter sales would hit a record of more than $1 billion, up 10% from the prior quarter, on strong sales of PCs. Analysts expect profits of $65 million; AMD's stock rose to an all-time high of 67 and a market value of $10 billion or more.

Sanders, 63, grew up poor in Chicago and aspired to be an actor before his face was rearranged in a college brawl. He switched to electronics and founded AMD in 1969. Now, less than two years from his planned retirement, he's riding high. "You've got to give him credit," says U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Ashok Kumar. But new twists lie ahead. The PC business is peaking, and Intel plans to unveil a sizzling new line of chips in the second half. For Sanders, the thrill ride is never over.

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