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Kelly Ripa returns to 'Live!' and declares, 'Our long, national nightmare is over'

"I love you and I am so happy you are here because you brought me here," Ripa's departing co-host Michael Strahan told her. "This show has been transforming for me and I know this show lives on because you are the queen of morning television."

By Karen Butler
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Kelly Ripa returns to 'Live!' and declares, 'Our long, national nightmare is over'
"Live with Kelly & Michael" co-host Kelly Ripa arrives at the 88th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on February 28, 2016. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 26 (UPI) -- Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan took the stage holding hands and smiling on Live! with Kelly & Michael Tuesday following Ripa's three-day absence during her dispute with the Walt Disney Company.

Ripa told the audience on Tuesday that Disney and ABC executives had apologized to her for not telling her that Strahan was leaving the show.

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Ripa called the show's crew and producers an "incredible team" whom she regards as family before saying: "Apologies have been made and the best thing to come out of all of this, you guys, is our parent company has assured me Live! is a priority.

Ripa and Strahan have co-hosted the morning show for four years. Ripa took an unscheduled hiatus from last Wednesday to Monday after Strahan announced he was leaving Live! to become a full-time co-host on Good Morning America starting in September.

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"Thank you," Ripa told Tuesday's audience, which cheered and applauded for her.

"Guys, guys, guys. Our long, national nightmare is over," she declared.

At one point, Strahan even kissed Ripa's hand before Ripa stepped closer to the audience by herself and waved.

"I am fairly certain that there are trained, professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message. I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to this show," she said. "The love, the show of support through this bizarre time has been really overwhelming. I really needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company, I earned the right. And, let's be honest, I know half of you called in sick to be here, so we get each other. In that time, I gained some perspective. I always speak from the heart. I didn't want to come out here and just say something I might regret. So, what transpired, though, over the course of a few days, has been extraordinary, in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace. And, since we're being honest, I don't consider this just a workplace. This is my second home."

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Ripa has been the co-host of Live! for 12 years.

Strahan has been a GMA contributor since 2014. His Live! replacement has not yet been announced.

"I am thrilled for Michael," Ripa said. "I am thrilled for you. This is a tremendous opportunity and I couldn't be and we couldn't be prouder of you and everything we accomplished together. So, back to the show. This is entertainment. It's supposed to be entertaining, so let's get back to what we do best and start the show. Incidentally, my dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we're all crazy and I think he's right."

"I'm so happy you're back," Strahan told Ripa when his co-host took her regular seat beside him. "One thing I know about you is you love this show, you love the fans, you love the staff. I love you and I am so happy you are here because you brought me here ... This show has been transforming for me and I know this show lives on because you are the queen of morning television ... If you need me, I'm coming back to help out."

"How dare you?" Ripa teased. "Oprah is the real queen."

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"Oprah's retired now," Strahan reminded her.

The pair then discussed Ripa's recent Caribbean vacation to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary with her husband Mark Consuelos.

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