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Luther Vandross, 50 Cent Win Big at American Music Awards

Soul singer Luther Vandross (search), who is recovering from a debilitating stroke that threatened to end not only his career but his life, won a leading two American Music Awards on Sunday.

The 52-year-old singer can speak and walk with assistance, but representatives recently said he remains far from fully recovered. He was honored as favorite male R&B performer and favorite soul/R&B album for his most recent CD, "Dance with My Father," which was completed shortly before his stroke in April.

Mary Vandross, his mother, accepted the male performer award on his behalf.

"I'm so very sorry that Luther cannot be here tonight in person," she told the crowd, after a brief moment of tearful speechlessness. "I'm here to represent him and say thanks to all of you who made this possible."

"The Shield" star Michael Chiklis (search) walked into the audience to present the second award to the elderly woman, who had difficulty climbing the stage steps the first time.

Alabama collected its 23rd American Music Award, this one for favorite country group. The quartet, which is currently on its farewell concert tour, has more AMA wins than any other performer -- followed by Michael Jackson (search) with 21 and Kenny Rogers with 19.

Pop diva Celine Dion was picked favorite adult contemporary artist, while tough-guy rapper 50 Cent won best rap/hip-hop album for "Get Rich or Die Tryin," a gritty CD about his many brushes with death on the street.

50 Cent, who often wears a bulletproof vest, has been shot nine times and stabbed. Born to a teenage mother who dealt drugs and was killed when he was 8, he started dealing drugs before he was a teenager.

MTV's "Newlyweds" pop stars Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson announced the award for favorite female country artist, which Faith Hill won over Martina McBride and Shania Twain.

"All I've ever wanted to do is just stand onstage and sing and you fans have made it possible time and time again," said Hill, who has four previous American Music Awards.

Linkin Park won the alternative artist category, while gospel star Steven Curtis Chapman was victorious in the contemporary inspirational class.

Other winners included Ricky Martin for favorite Latin star, while soul veterans The Isley Brothers were honored as best R&B group. Best rap/hip-hop group went to Lil John and the East Side Boyz, and rock 'n' roll mainstay Fleetwood Mac received the award for favorite rock group.

There were no clear nomination leaders, but more than a dozen performers had double bids going into Sunday's ceremony, including Dion, 50 Cent, and pop star Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake's CD "Justified" won favorite pop album.

The awards were presented during a live ABC telecast from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as master of ceremonies.

Nominations were based on sales figures and radio play, and winners were selected by a survey of about 20,000 listeners.

The American Music Awards was shifted from its usual January date to November, cutting the nominations window by about two months. The move was made in part to avoid the crush of other ceremonies, such as the Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys, that will be competing for attention at the beginning of next year.

In addition, producer Dick Clark said staging the show before the holiday gift-buying season helped organizers secure more performers.

"Everybody is dropping new CDs and albums at this very moment, so they're anxious for the promotion," he said.

Britney Spears launched the show by being lowered onstage in a purple corset, black hot pants and thigh-high boots to start the telecast with a pyrotechnic-filled performance of her new song "Me Against the Music." She was followed by Kid Rock's pounding cover of Bad Company's 1975 anthem "Feel Like Makin' Love," which he screeched under the towering flashing letters L-O-V-E.

The heavyweight belter Ruben Studdard and scrawny crooner Clay Aiken performed the duet "Jesus Is Love" together, after being introduced by Kimmel as "the spaghetti and meatball of 'American Idol.'"