Randy Travis has been too gone for too long — but it's never too late to come back home. Nearly two years after he suffered a debilitating stroke, the country legend, 55, made a rare public appearance at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards, where he was honored by fellow crooner Lee Brice.
Brice took the stage at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, April 19, to present the award for Song of the Year. Prior to announcing the nominees, however, he sang a few lines of Travis' hit song "Forever and Ever, Amen."
"That classic song won Song of the Year in 1987, and the man who sang it has had an amazing comeback to be with us tonight," he said by way of introduction. "Ladies and gentleman, the great Randy Travis!"
Cameras then panned to the "I Told You So" singer in the audience. Amid wild cheers from the crowd, he rose slowly to his feet, smiling and nodding in acknowledgement of the applause.
Travis has not been seen or heard from much since July 2013, when he was hospitalized in critical condition after emergency brain surgery. After the ACMs, however, he took to his website with a letter to fans.
"It was an amazing gift to feel all of the love from you tonight in Dallas at the Academy of Country Music Awards," he wrote. "It has been a hard fought and miraculous journey since my stroke two years ago, and I have gained a greater understanding of God's grace and how quickly events can change us."
He went on to express gratitude for the "kind cards and heartfelt letters" he received from fans, noting that he hoped to one day be able to return to the stage. "The power of music remains a source of inspiration and healing for me," he shared. "Writing songs was always a passion of mine and I still have a lot to share with you."