Credit: Kevin Mazur/

She did Whitney proud.

Besides perhaps Adele, Jennifer Hudson was the most anticipated performer at Sunday's Grammys -- even though she signed on to the awards show just one day ago.

Hudson, 30, was tapped to memorialize the late Whitney Houston (found dead Saturday afternoon in her hotel room in Beverly Hills) in a truly daunting way -- by lending her voice to the biggest hit of Houston's legendary career, "I Will Always Love You."

After the annual segment of the show dedicated to music greats who passed away in the past year -- including Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Clarence Clemons, among others -- Hudson cautiously ascended to stage center for the gut-wrenching goodbye ballad.

Choking back tears, the Dreamgirls star offered a stripped-down, elegant version of the classic song (sung by Houston on The Bodyguard soundtrack and written by Dolly Parton) -- all the more impressive considering the nerve-wracking rehearsals began only Sunday morning.  A backstage source told Us Hudson began "sobbing hysterically" while practicing the song.

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