The wait is over!

After 291 days and 59 guest hosts, Kelly Ripa finally found a permanent LIVE! co-host. On September 4, the bubbly blonde, 41, revealed former NFL player Michael Strahan, 40, has taken over for Regis Philbin, 81, who left the program on November 18, 2011.

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"Before I bring him out, I just want to take a minute, sincerely from the bottom of my heart, to thank all of you," Ripa told viewers. "You stood by us . . You're the best audience. I'm not kidding. I love you guys. I really appreciate all of your input during our co-host search."

Before Strahan entered the New York City studio where LIVE! is filmed, Ripa told the audience, "It's time for a new era of our show to begin."

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Once Strahan walked on set, he was showered in confetti before Ripa jumped into his arms and gave him a friendly kiss. "I'm speechless. I am so happy to be here," Strahan said. "You know how they say it's a dream come true? I truly can't say this, because I didn't know I could dream this."

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"I adore you," Strahan told Ripa. "I am so happy to be here with you and to be a part of this."

News of the former athlete's hiring was leaked in late August by Broadcasting & Cable and TMZ.  Before Strahan was offered the job, guest hosts included Nick Lachey, Josh Groban, Jerry O'Connell, Seth Meyers and Ripa's husband, Mark Consuelos. 

Ripa herself was a former LIVE! guest host before she replaced Kathie Lee Gifford, 59, in 2001. LIVE! won its first Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show on June 23, 2012.

This article originally appeared on Michael Strahan Joins Kelly Ripa as Permanent LIVE! Cohost