Kelly Ripa returns to 'Live,' not-so-subtly rips ABC

Kelly Ripa returned to "Live with Kelly and Michael" on Tuesday, walking onto the stage for the first time since news broke last Tuesday that Strahan will leave the show to join "Good Morning America."

Ripa and Strahan walked out holding hands. Ripa waved and bowed to the crowd, putting her hands over her heart at one point and looking emotional.

“Thank you,” she said. “Guys, guys, guys. Our long national nightmare is over. Please, sit down. Please, please be seated. I’m going to be completely honest, I am fairly certain sure there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message," she joked. "I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming back to this show. The love, the show of support through this bizarre time, has been really overwhelming. I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company... I earned the right."

Ripa, in a not-so-subtle jab at ABC, said her time off sparked an important conversation about "communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace."

She said "apologizes have been made" and she has been assured by ABC that "'Live' is a priority."

"There is a commitment to this show and the people that work here and, most importantly, you, the viewers who have watched us every day for 30 years."

She also praised her departing co-host.

"I am thrilled for Michael. I am thrilled for you," she said. "This is a tremendous opportunity… I couldn’t be and we couldn't be prouder of you and everything we've accomplished together."

Strahan called Ripa the "queen of morning television."

"One thing I know about you is you love this show… I love you and I am so happy you are here."

Ripa alerted staff members of her return in an email sent late Friday.

Strahan, a former football player with the New York Giants, replaced Regis Philbin as host of "Live" in 2012. Ripa has been on the show since 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.