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Pat Sajak arrives at the 38th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards
FILE PHOTO: Pat Sajak arrives at the 38th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, June 19, 2011. Photo by Richard Brian/Reuters

After 41 years, Pat Sajak takes final spin as host of 'Wheel of Fortune'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — After 41 years and over 8,000 episodes, Pat Sajak's final turn as the renowned host of "Wheel of Fortune" will air on Friday.

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Sajak's co-host and letter turner Vanna White paid an emotional tribute to her partner on Thursday's episode, calling him "like a brother" and a "true lifelong friend." In the pre-recorded video that featured clips and photos of their 41 years as co-workers, she added that their personal friendship has meant even more than their professional collaboration.

White's heartfelt farewell message for Sajak, in which she was holding back tears, tees Sajak up for what will likely be a memorable finish on Friday's episode.

Sajak announced in June 2023 that he would retire from his hosting duties at the end of the show's 41st season, with Ryan Seacrest set to succeed him. White will stay on as Seacrest's co-host through the 2025-2026 season, based on a contract extension she signed in September.

In a recent interview for "Good Morning America" with Sajak's daughter Maggie, who serves as the show's social correspondent, the host said he felt "surprisingly OK" given that he announced his retirement almost a year before his final show.

"I've had time to sort of get used to it and it's been a little bit wistful and all that, but I'm enjoying it and taking it all in and reflecting on a great run," he said.

Looking back on his time with the popular game show, Sajak said he is grateful for how audiences across the country connected with the show and made it a part of their daily routines.

"Somewhere along the line, we became more than a popular show. We became a part of popular culture, and more importantly, we became a part of people's lives," he said. "That's been awfully gratifying."

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