GLENDALE, Calif. -- A Glendale woman whose disappearance sparked a massive search made up a story that she'd been abducted at knifepoint and fled because of stress, police said Thursday.

Nancy Salas was reunited with her family in Glendale late Thursday night, nearly two days after she went missing. She was last seen around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday after telling her family she was going on her usual run.

Salas turned up in a carpet store in Merced in central California Thursday, Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The young woman was in tears and asked an employee to call 911, showroom coordinator Melanie Mittelsteadt told the Merced Sun-Star.

Salas told police she'd been abducted by a man at knifepoint during her run and was taken to Merced by bus and train, Lorenz said.

Salas retracted her story shortly before she was set to be reunited with her family back in Glendale late Thursday, Lorenz said, admitting that she made it up and fled because she felt intense pressure from her family and friends.

Police discovered as the search progressed that Salas had misled her parents by telling them she was attending the University of California, Los Angeles.

The school reported that the fourth-year student and sociology major was last enrolled at UCLA in fall 2008.

"She was idolized by her family, neighbors, friends, church, as being a successful student at UCLA," Lorenz said. "She didn't know how to handle it and she fled."

Nancy Salas spoke to her family, friends and all the people who helped search for her inside her parents' small apartment late Thursday.

Cars double-parked in the street and young men crowded around the front door, straining to hear her story.

Her 19-year-old brother, Henry Salas Jr., fended off reporters, begging them to respect his family's privacy. After about 20 minutes, the young people filed out, telling each other not to talk to the media.

Her mother and father had been planning a graduation ceremony for their daughter. Both parents, on learning that their daughter was OK earlier Thursday, hugged relatives and friends and looked forward to seeing her.

"Everything has ended up beautifully," the woman's father Henry Salas, said in Spanish. "It's incredible the help that we had -- roommates, friends, friends from the university, friends from church."

Her mother, Joanna Salas, smiled broadly as the crowd took turns offering her hugs.

"I've come back to life," she said.

Salas' disappearance prompted a sweeping but futile search by police officers and volunteers who were aided by rangers, bloodhounds and a helicopter. Detectives checked her cell phone and computer records for clues.

Friends and family members passed out flyers with her photograph and her friends mobilized on Facebook to exchange information and organize searches.