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Luke Bryan wins top prize at ACM Awards 2021

Luke Bryan, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, won Entertainer of the Year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday night. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Luke Bryan, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, won Entertainer of the Year at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday night. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 19 (UPI) -- Luke Bryan, Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett were the big winners Sunday night during the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards that celebrates excellency in the genre.

Bryan was named Entertainer of the Year, beating out Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Rhett for the night's highest honor.

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However, the American Idol judge accepted the award via video from Los Angeles where he's been recuperating since testing positive for COVID-19, which forced him to pull out of performing during the event.

"I'm amazingly surprised," he said in the video. "To the ACM, I'm so sorry I could not be there. I missed certainly being able to do my song."

The show was telecast from the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium, The Bluebird Cafe -- three of Nashville's historic music venues -- and was hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton, who is the first Black woman to host the event.

Heading into the event, Morris and Stapleton led with six nominations, with neither ending the night empty handed as Morris won her second-straight Female Artist of the Year accolade and Stapleton took home Album of the Year for Starting Over.

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"I kind of consider this category to be who tried their best in a year where it was very weird and nobody could do what they were made to do," Morris said in accepting the award while thanking nominees Gabby Barrett, Caylee Hammack, Ingrid Andress, Guyton and Tenille Arts.

"You've all inspired me so much," she said.

Male Artist of the Year went to Rhett who beat out Dierks Bentley, Stapleton, Church and Combs.

"This is absolutely unbelievable," Rhett said. "It just feels so incredible to be in this category, to be honest with you. It's literally my heroes sitting right here in these seats."

The night was filled by performances with Elle King and Miranda Lambert opening the show with "Drunk (And I Don't Want to Go Home)."

Bentley performed a cover of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" with The War and Treaty.

Dan + Shay, who won Duo of the Year, also performed "Glad You Exist."

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Other award winners included Carly Pearce and Lee Brice who won Single of the Year and Music Event of the Year for their song "I Hope You're Happy Now," which they also performed during the show.

Kane Brown won Video of the Year for "Worldwide Beautiful," and Barrett and Jimmie Allen won New Female Artist of the Year and New Male Artist of the year, respectively.

Group of the Year went to Old Dominion.

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