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Chris Hardwick makes emotional return to TV following sexual abuse allegations

Chris Hardwick attends the world premiere of

 Chris Hardwick attends the world premiere of "Black Panther" in Los Angeles on Jan. 29. Credit: Getty Images for Disney / Jesse Grant

Chris Hardwick became emotional Sunday upon his return to hosting AMC's "Talking Dead," following a hiatus after being accused of sexual abuse.

Saying he was "so appreciative to be standing here right now" on the panel-discussion show that followed the midseason premiere of "Fear the Walking Dead," Hardwick, 46, thanked fans of the “Walking Dead” franchise for their support after actress Chloe Dykstra in a June essay described sexual and emotional torment by an unnamed ex-boyfriend. Hardwick later said that the man described in the essay was he, while denying claims of abuse.

"Talking Dead," which airs after the post-apocalyptic zombie drama "Walking Dead" and its spinoff "Fear the Walking Dead," is not "just a job to me" but "a vital part of my life," Hardwick said. "It's been with me through good times and bad and I'm so grateful to the fans, producers and the amazing casts of both of these shows for allowing me to come here and be a part of this community every week." He added that the two "Walking Dead" series were set to experience great change "in the coming weeks and months," and that he had "never been more thankful than I am in this moment" to introduce their aftershow.

Hardwick, who at one point seemed near tears, did not refer directly to the allegations, for which AMC had put him on hiatus while it investigated. The cable network, while not explicitly exonerating him, said in a statement July 24 announcing Hardwick's return that "given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step." Hardwick, who has hosted the NBC game show "The Wall," already was a guest judge Aug. 7 on that network's "America’s Got Talent."

Dykstra had declined to be interviewed for the investigation, tweeting Friday that "I 100% stand by every single word of my essay. I made sure it was unembellished, factual, and that I had evidence to back it up in order to protect myself in case of ACTUAL litigation (not a network investigation, where I'm not protected)."

Some "Talking Dead" staffers, including co-executive producer Jen Patton, who had worked with Hardwick for five years, resigned in protest after AMC said it was reinstating the host, reported Deadline.com.

Hardwick, who has a Facebook account but no Twitter or Instagram, has not commented on social media.

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