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UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) - A theme of redemption filled the
Academy of Country Music Awards as several once-fading artists
reclaimed the spotlight. The Dixie Chicks and Lee Ann Womack claimed
top honors Wednesday night with three awards each, but the emotional
peak came when Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell accepted
career-honoring awards. Grinning on stage, Rogers thanked his wife
Wanda, who beamed back at him from the audience. "Wanda was with me
when nobody cared," he told the crowd. Dubbed the Career Achievement
Award, Rogers' honor recognizes a country performer who has returned
to popularity after falling out of favor. It has been presented only
three times in the show's 36-year history. Mandrell took home the
surprise Pioneer Award, which recognizes an artist who has expanded
the boundaries of country music. Even chart-topping musicians Toby
Keith, who won best album and male vocalist, and Brooks and Dunn,
who won best duo, said their awards mark a renewed energy and
signified their return to top form.