We've become so accustomed to our celebrities coming and going within a few years that we often overlook their potential for a future comeback. Everyone loves a comeback, and although these stars disappeared from our radars, they later re-emerged as big as ever.
In Pictures: Celebrities With Big Dreams That Paid Off

Betty White
As one of the first ladies on television, multiple Emmy Award winner Betty White has always had an innocence to her, from her soft voice to her fair looks. She began modeling in her youth, moved into radio, and made it to TV in 1949. Throughout the '40s and '50s she continued to charm audiences in several TV dramas and talk shows, but landed one of her most famous roles, as Rose from St. Olaf in "Golden Girls", in 1985. The show aired until 1992 and won several awards.

Following the end of the show, White became less visible, although she continued to perform.

But in recent years, White has come roaring back into the spotlight, and has since had a number of stints, including stealing the show in the 2009 movie, "The Proposal", and hosting "Saturday Night Live" this month (thanks in part to her 500,000 devoted Facebook fans). White has always had a familiarity about her; in her youth she reminded us of the pretty, fun girl next door, and now in her golden years, she reminds us of the grandmother we wish we had - and this star continues to rise.

In September 2009, White received the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Talk about a comeback! Or did she ever really leave? (Do the characters in these classic films reflect what it's like to work on Wall Street? Find out, in Financial Careers According To Hollywood.)

Whitney Houston
If you read the lyrics to "Exhale", "Why Does it Hurt So Bad" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go", songs that Whitney made famous, anyone can understand that life and love are bittersweet. And while it's difficult to dispute Houston's amazing voice, her personal life has had a tendency to take precedence over her music career.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, she was a best-selling recording artist and performer who also starred in hit movies such as "The Bodyguard" (1992) and "Waiting To Exhale" (1995). But Houston also faced faced several uphill battles through the '90s, which cause her to pull back from the spotlight for several years. These included allegations of drug use and her stormy relationship with then-husband Bobby Brown.

Fortunately, she still earned a considerable amount from ongoing royalties from her smash-hit albums, and in 2001 she renewed her contract for a cool $100 million. She has since returned to the spotlight, releasing her first album since 2003. (Skip the first step and build off of someone else's successful business model. Find out how, in Share The Wealth With Franchises.)

Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert began acting at five years old in the movie "Pound", directed by his father, director Robert Downey, Sr.

As an adult, he soon became famous for his ability to play versatile characters, which allowed him to have a wide range of acting roles and prevented casting directors from typecasting him or limiting his ability to seek promising roles.

But the rising star's fame soon turned to notoriety, following several reports that Downey had been arrested several times on drug charges and breaking the terms of his parole, then went through a number of stints in rehabilitation.

He finally managed to turn his life around, and made his way back to the silver screen in 2003 with "The Singing Detective".

With recent hits including "Iron Man" (2006), "Tropic Thunder" (2008) and now "Iron Man 2" (2010), he seems poised to remind us how talented and bankable an actor he truly is. (The glitz and glam of Hollywood could help put some more glitz in your pocket. Find out more, in Analyzing Show Biz Stocks.)

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan has had many challenges, yet he combined a super competitive nature and work ethic to propel himself to a status over a career that has yet to be duplicated in the history of the National Basketball Association.

Jordan arguably made the NBA the billion-dollar industry that it is today, while revolutionizing sports marketing as a designer and spokesperson. He certainly made Nike (NYSE:NKE) a household feature through his signature Air Jordan shoes. Many believe that today's players are able to command $20 million a year due to his success. He is also rumored to have lowered his salary so that the Chicago Bulls could afford to provide him with the best possible teammates.

He quit basketball in the prime of his career to pursue a Minor League Baseball in 1993, following the death of his father. However, it seems he just couldn't ignore his desire for basketball, and he rejoined the Bulls to win two more playoff titles before retiring a second time in 1999.

But - you guessed it - he came back in 2001 to play with the Washington Wizards, becoming the first 40-year-old to rack up 43 points in an NBA game in 2003.

From basketball to baseball to golf, Michael Jordan is the athlete of his generation, and still arguably one of the best athletes of all time. His career included five MVPs, 14 All-Star appearances and six championships as well as induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. (Find out how calculating a reproduction cost for a company can beat out the dividend discount model, in Company Clone Cost Reveals True Value.)

Comebacks are Easier These Days
Past celebrities now have an easier way to make a comeback, such as hosting awards shows, being interviewed by the likes of Larry King and Oprah Winfrey, but especially through the recent phenomenon of reality shows. Actresses and actors seem to forever remain interesting to viewers. One thing is for sure, celebrities with talent will always be recognized, regardless of their pasts. (For a look at the other side of the ledger, check out From Celebrity To Working Stiff.)