John Amirante thought his final national anthem before a Rangers game would be Game 2 of the first-round series against the Penguins on April 18.

But after an outpouring of negative reaction from fans, the team reversed course the following day and said Amirante, 80, would be invited back on occasion.

Sure enough, he was back at the microphone Sunday night for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning. The team had invited him to sing earlier in the playoffs for Game 7 against the Capitals, but he had to pass because of a case of bronchitis that since has cleared.

"You bet I'm excited to be back," Amirante said before the game. "This is bringing back memories of '94 . . . I'm just very excited to be back here and appreciative.

"I thank all the fans for their support, believe me. Fantastic people."

Fans greeted Amirante with a thunderous ovation when he was introduced. After the anthem, he gave them a salute.

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Amirante expressed frustration before the April 18 game with how the Rangers and the Garden had handled the apparent end of his term with the team, which began in 1980. He made only a handful of appearances this season.

But he said things since have been "smoothed out" and that he was told "we still want you to be part of it."

Amirante sang at the team's viewing party for Game 3 Wednesday in Bryant Park and for a corporate viewing party Friday. On Sunday night, he was to play the big house.

When will Amirante next sing? "I have no idea when I'll be back," he said. "But I'm here now."