Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Vanessa Williams returned to the Miss America stage for the first time in 32 years on Sunday night, and received an apology from the organization for how she was ousted as the pageant winner in 1984.

“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years,” Sam Haskell, the executive chairman of the Miss America pageant, said to Williams at the start of Sunday’s broadcast. “You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”

Williams became the first African-American woman to win Miss America in 1984, but was forced to return her title after Penthouse published nude photos Williams posed for prior to her victory. Last week, it was revealed Williams would return to the Miss America ceremony as a judge.

“Thank you so much. So unexpected, but so beautiful,” Williams said on Sunday night. “I did the best that I could in my reign as Miss America in 1983-84. I, on behalf of my family — my mother in particular — Brian Edwards, who orchestrated this entire thing to bring me back. And your leadership, your integrity, you bring this pageant back to what it ought to be. I love you. I love the girls. I’m so honored to be back.”

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