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Michael Strahan said goodbye to Live! With Kelly and Michael Friday morning — but just because he’s leaving the morning talk show doesn’t mean he’s gone forever.
“I’m not dying!” Strahan, who’s joining the Good Morning America team, said. “I’m still in the family, and I’m still available to come back. I’m not going anywhere.”
Strahan and cohost Kelly Ripa kicked off the momentous episode by walking out holding hands as P!nk’s “Raise Your Glass” played over the speakers. Ripa lovingly hugged her departing cohost after they sat down before cracking a joke: “Don’t take this as a bad sign: It’s Friday the 13th.”
She went on to ask Strahan how he’s feeling about his departure after four years on the show. “It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I’ve done this for four years. This is a moment that I didn’t anticipate being here, at least at this point. But it’s here and we’re gonna enjoy it.”
Ripa didn’t anticipate this, either: She found out that Strahan was leaving just before the development was reported, and took a brief break from the show in late April to deal with the news. “I didn’t want to come out here and say something I will regret,” she said when she returned to the stage on April 26. “This started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly respect in the workplace.”
Everything seems to be fine between the two now, and Strahan specified that he didn’t want his farewell to be too dramatic. After Ripa explained they’d be showing flashbacks throughout the episode, Strahan said he doesn’t “like a big to-do about it,” adding, “I think we are out here every morning, and people laugh. I think that’s what we need to do right now. Forget all these other formalities.”
He couldn’t do away with all formalities, though. The morning’s first guest, actor Matt Bomer, started off his appearance by thanking Strahan for “helping the great unrequited love of my life, Kelly Ripa, host the show so well.”
“It’s been a pleasure doing this with you for four years,” the Nice Guys star said. “Whether you’re here looking all dapper, or in a gold lamé thong on the set of Magic Mike, you always conduct yourself with a great intelligence and grace and generosity and I wish you all the best.”
Later, Ripa also praised Strahan. “You have given us so much joy in the mornings, from your smile to your sense of humor to your horrible French accent,” she said. “We really are so, so proud of you. We’ve achieved so much together, and I look forward to watching you every morning and seeing what else you achieve.”
“I didn’t know what to expect coming from sports to daytime television,” Strahan, who used to play for the New York Giants, responded. “And you guys opened up your hearts to me, you opened up your homes to me. It’s been so overwhelming with the response that we’ve had over the last four years that you guys have loved this show. It means the world that you give us an hour of your day.”
With that, Strahan and Ripa toasted and embraced. Live! will return on Monday with Jimmy Kimmel as a guest cohost. Strahan officially begins his GMA gig in September. Ripa explained his early departure from Live! (he was originally set to stay on until the fall) in the new cover story for PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.