Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) -- Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made an emotional return to the political stage Thursday night when she led the pledge of allegiance at the Democratic National Convention.
Giffords, who stepped down from Congress in January to focus on her recovery from a shooting that left her grievously wounded, walked out with good friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz by her side.
Her appearance brought the capacity crowd at Time Warner Cable arena to their feet in an ovation that lasted more than a minute and spurred chants of "Gabby, Gabby!"
Many of those in the audience were visibly moved.
Giffords delivered the pledge in a clear strong voice, her left hand holding up her right hand - that side left weakened by the bullet wound to her brain - to her heart.
She left the stage blowing kisses to the crowd, again prompting another rousing ovation and chants of her name.
She was immediately greeted backstage by husband Mark Kelly, who gave her a hug and a kiss.
Giffords was shot in January 2011 at a constituent meet-and-greet in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed in the attack by Jared Lee Loughner, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords was one of 12 wounded. Loughner pleaded guilty this month to the shooting.
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