Tracy Morgan's surprise Emmys appearance nearly ruined by Paula Deen

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A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Tracy Morgan's touching -- and covertly planned -- appearance at the Emmy Awards following a June 2014 limo accident was almost ruined when he ran into Paula Deen in the lobby of their Los Angeles hotel.

Fortunately, publicists intervened before a photo snapped by the controversial TV chef could hit social media. Morgan's appearance, which scored a standing ovation inside the Microsoft Theater, had been kept a tightly guarded secret for weeks, after all.

See photos of Tracy Morgan at the Emmys:

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Tracy Morgan at the Emmys
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Tracy Morgan's surprise Emmys appearance nearly ruined by Paula Deen
Tracy Morgan presents the award for outstanding drama series at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Tracy Morgan speaks onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Tracy Morgan speaks onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FOX/FOX Collection/Getty Images)
Tracy Morgan, right, and Jane Krakowski hug at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tracy Morgan, Maven Sonae Morgan and Megan Wollover pose in the photo room at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Tracy Morgan and wife Megan Wollover pose in the press room at the 67th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Tracy Morgan, left, and Megan Wollover pose in the press room at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Tracy Morgan, left, and Megan Wollover pose in the press room at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tracy Morgan poses at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Tracy Morgan, left, and Megan Wollover pose in the press room at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
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Morgan flew to L.A. from New Jersey on a private plane on Saturday to avoid sightings at LAX, and few involved in the telecast were aware that he'd be doling out the night's final award. In fact, the Fox execs who got to preview host Andy Samberg's taped bits simply were instructed to stay until the end of the show; and those at the Emmy's day-before rehearsal were told the final presenter would be a surprise.

That Morgan ultimately got his moment left the comedian emotional. "It's been a long year," he told THR. "And I've waited for a long time to get back on this stage."

Read More: Emmy Surprise: Tracy Morgan Gets Emotional About His Big Hollywood Return (Exclusive Q&A)

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