Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., the irrepressible former mayor of Providence, R.I., finally won a round in court.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court decided last week that Cianci, a Republican, is legally clear to take office Jan. 7 as mayor of this small state's largest city, a post he held for nine years until a felony conviction forced him to resign.

Cianci, 49, who has worked as a radio talk-show host, won his old job back last month in an election squeaker, finishing 317 votes ahead of independent Frederick Lippett and well ahead of Democrat Andrew Annaldo.

"I have no animosity to anybody," Cianci told listeners Friday afternoon on his last radio show. Cianci's personality has so dominated Providence that a talkmaster on a competing station went so far as to call Cianci's show for an interview that aired on both stations.

The court ruling marked a major political comeback. Cianci was driven from the mayor's office at mid-term six years ago when he pleaded no contest to assaulting a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife.

The assault was not politically damaging, but the felony conviction required his resignation from office. At the time, Cianci was also battling a growing perception of corruption: More than two dozen members of his administration had been charged with crimes, including extortion and larceny.

But no corruption charges were brought against Cianci. On the assault conviction, he drew a five-year suspended prison sentence and five years of probation, which he completed without incident in April 1989.

After he won the Nov. 6 election, two groups of residents -- most of whom refused to identify themselves -- filed suit, arguing Cianci was ineligible because of a 1986 amendment to the state constitution requiring that felons wait three years from the end of their sentence to run for office.

Attorneys for Cianci argued that it was unfair to apply the 1986 law to his 1984 conviction, and the high court agreed.