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Sounds like your O2 sensor is malfunctioning. When the check engine light comes on, the computer goes into a preset mode bypassing the O2 sensor and that's why it suddenly runs good. Have the O2 sensor checked. You can also have the trouble codes read and they should point you in the same direction.
The o2 sensors because the car may have more than one, are located before the catalic converter, they look like spark plugs with 3 or more cables running from the top, scan the car to check for other codes.