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Image Awards honor Lucas, Houston, black stuntmen

The Associated Press, Friday, February 17, 2012, 6:58pm (PST)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The special honors presented at the 43rd annual NAACP Image Awards were emotional, too.

Yolanda Adams sang the spiritual song "I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry" as part of a moving tribute to Whitney Houston, who died last week.

"We love you, Nip," she said as she finished the song, referring to Houston's nickname.

Footage of Houston accepting the award for outstanding female artist in 1994 was shown, as was Denzel Washington's presentation of that award, in which he called the singer an "artist of unparalleled stature."

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte presented the President's Award to the Black Stuntmen's Association, which was established in 1967 to break racial barriers and earn black performers a place alongside white stuntmen in film and television. Some of the group's original members were on hand to accept the award.

Samuel L. Jackson presented George Lucas with the Vanguard Award. The filmmaker was honored for his body of work, including the recent "Red Tails," which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, several of whom were in the audience at the Shrine Auditorium. While some of the elderly airmen struggled to stand, the audience rose to their feet to welcome them with a standing ovation.

Lucas said he made the film to be inspirational, patriotic and to "show that everybody has contributed to building this country into what it is today."

In presenting the award, Jackson said he has always loved "Star Wars" and would have done anything to appear in an installment of the space story.

Jackson said he once told Lucas: "I'll be a Storm Trooper and just run across the screen. Nobody even has to know I'm in it."

Jackson went on to play Mace Windu in the three "Star Wars" prequels.

Winners Friday include Octavia Spencer, who was named outstanding supporting actress for "The Help," and Laz Alonso, who won outstanding actor for "Jumping the Broom." Jennifer Hudson won outstanding album for "I Remember Me."

Television winners include Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner for their lead roles in the comedy "Reed Between the Lines." Regina King was named outstanding actress in a drama series for "SouthLAnd."

Sanaa Lathan and Anthony Mackie hosted the ceremony, which featured performances by Hudson, Ne-Yo and Lenny Kravitz.

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AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/APSandy.

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