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In this paper, we quantify the benefits of employing relay station in large-coverage cognitive radio systems which opportunistically access the licensed spectrum of some small-coverage primary systems scattered inside. Through analytical study, we show that even a simple decode-and-forward (SDF) relay, which can hold only one packet, offers significant pathloss gain in terms of the spatial transmission opportunities and link reliability. However, such scheme fails to capture the spatial-temporal burstiness of the primary activities, that is, when either the source-relay (SR) link or relay-destination (RD) link is blocked by the primary activities, the cognitive spectrum access has to stop. To overcome this obstacle, we further propose buffered decode-and-forward (BDF) protocol. By exploiting the infinitely long buffer at the relay, the blockage time on either SR or RD link is saved for cognitive spectrum access. The buffer gain is shown analytically to improve the stability region and average end-to-end delay performance of the cognitive relay system.