By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Tracy Morgan graced the Emmy awards on Sunday in his first live public appearance since suffering life-threatening injuries in a deadly car wreck more than a year ago, cracking a joke and receiving a warm welcome from his television peers.
Morgan, 46, one of the stars of "30 Rock" and a former cast member of "Saturday Night Live," walked confidently on stage to a standing ovation as he presented the night's top award for best drama series.
"Last year Jimmy Kimmel said on this stage, 'We'll see you next year, Tracy Morgan.' Well Jimmy, thanks to my amazing doctors, beautiful family and wife, I'm here, standing on my own two feet," Morgan said.
"It's been a long road back, I suffered a traumatic brain injury that put me in a coma for eight days and when I finally regained consciousness, I was ecstatic to learn I wasn't the one who messed up."
In a year when the surprises came from the winners rather than on-stage antics at the Emmy awards, Morgan's return was a standout moment on the night honoring television's top achievements.
The comedian suffered broken bones as well as a serious brain injury in the June 2014 highway accident in New Jersey that left another passenger in the limousine van they were traveling in, comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, dead. A speeding Wal-mart truck driver who had been awake for 28 hours was held responsible for the accident.
While Morgan was still not fully back to his bawdy, wisecracking self, he did tap his trademark humor on Sunday ahead of presenting the Emmy award for best drama series to "Game of Thrones."
"It's only recently that I've started to feel like myself again, which means a whole lot of women, y'all gonna get pregnant at the after-party," he quipped, receiving loud laughs from his peers.
Backstage, an emotional Morgan, with tears in his eyes, told reporters that being back on stage was "very overwhelming."
"Part of my therapy was seeing TV and seeing my friends and saying, One day I'll be back," he said.
Morgan said his publicist had encouraged him to come to the Emmys, saying, "Maybe you should let Hollywood welcome you back home."
It's been a long road to recovery for Morgan, who in a television interview earlier this year was seen wiping away tears and holding a black cane, saying he needed more time to heal.
Morgan will host of the Oct. 17 episode of "Saturday Night Live."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Leslie Adler)