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    Gibson's "GMA" Goodbye

    Charles Gibson has bid Good Morning America goodbye.

    Former cohosts, special guests and future competitors joined Gibson as he said farewell to the morning show Wednesday after nearly two decades as coanchor.

    "For 19 years my mornings have not just been good," Gibson said. "They've been great.

    "I will miss our breakfast conversations, more than I can adequately say. And I will miss the folks who work on this broadcast--on air and off."

    The emotional if subdued tribute--at least when compared to Katie Couric's blow-out send-off--was mostly kept a family affair, with just three celebrity guests dropping by to bid farewell to the World News Tonight-bound anchor.

    Fellow morning personality and devoted Gibson flirt Kelly Ripa stopped by the studio to say goodbye and good luck, and introduce "Charlie's Angels," a clip tribute showing some of Gibson's most coquettish moments on air.

    "You have made more than one or two--several women blush and shy," Ripa told the departing host.

    Former baseball star Cal Ripken Jr. dropped by, giving Gibson a framed Baltimore Orioles jersey with the number 19, in honor of the newsman's years of GMA service. Gibson thanked Ripken, and said his enthusiasm in playing the game inspired the anchor in his own work.

    "That was an inspiration for me," Gibson said. "The way you approached baseball is very much the way you should approach this job."

    Kermit, meanwhile, was something of a repeat guest. The Muppet was a guest on Gibson's original GMA farewell show in 1998, when he left the program for all of nine months before returning in 1999 to relaunch the show with Diane Sawyer.

    "There are no two people I care more about in this business than Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts," Gibson said of his coanchor and the show's longtime news reporter. "I didn't know Diane very well when we started our 'temporary' gig here--I just new I loved her as a broadcaster. I came quickly to love her as a person."

    The feeling was mutual as both Sawyer and Roberts bid fond farewells to their longtime coworker.

    "Charlie is a rock," Sawyer said. "We didn't really know each other that well when we started out, but somehow instinctively I knew he was there as a safety net and a cushion, a life raft."

    "He's been like a brother, an uncle, he's counseled me and just been there," Roberts said. "He's the rock, he's everything."

    Former GMA stalwarts Joan Lunden, Kate Snow, Bill Weir, Spencer Christian and recently departed weatherman Tony Perkins all returned to say goodbye.

    Gibson first started work on the morning chatfest with Lunden in 1987, and last month, after a long tenure as one of the many rotating replacements for World News Tonight, was named sole anchor to the evening program, replacing the recovering Bob Woodruff and pregnant Elizabeth Vargas.

    Gibson's family, including his wife, Arlene, his two daughters and his three-month-old grandson, also dropped by for the farewell and said the patriarch's new job was a more likely fit.

    "Charlie is a night person," his wife said. "That's the strange thing about this job. I never see him in the morning--and that's a good thing."

    For all the new developments Gibson is poised to face in his news gig, competitors are not one of them.

    He will again go head-to-head with Couric, who takes over the CBS Evening News, and NBC's Brian Williams.

    Both sent their congratulations and best wishes.

    Williams took a humorous tack, with "insincere," "outright lie" and "disingenuous" flashing under his image as he wished his future rival bon voyage.

    "Good luck," Williams concluded. "With limits."

    Couric played it straighter.

    "See you in September," she said.

    After thanking his colleagues and family, Gibson turned his increasingly emotional attentions to the people on the other side of the television--the audience.

    "I've always said we broadcast at an hour you wouldn't have your best friend into the house," he said. "The dishes aren't done, the beds aren't made, the kids are at their wildest--but you let us come into your home and treat us like friends.

    "To those of you who watch, the greatest thanks of all...We deeply appreciate your letting us be a small part of your lives. Once more I say, good morning, America."

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