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Sam Hunt, Darius Rucker, and more honored at special Academy of Country Music event

Any event at the Ryman Auditorium has a little bit of magic, but when you bring together iconic artists and music industry veterans with rising stars, it’s even more special.

The Academy of Country Music® presented the 12th Annual ACM Honors™, an evening dedicated to recognizing the special honorees and off-camera category winners from the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards™.

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: Honoree Sam Hunt speaks onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for ACM)

The event featured a star-studded lineup of live performances and award presentations celebrating Special Awards recipients Dierks Bentley (ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award), Matraca Berg (ACM Poet’s Award), Sam Hunt (ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award), Alan Jackson (ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award), Darius Rucker (ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award), Mickey & Chris Christensen and Eddie Miller (ACM Mae Boren Axton Service Award, all awarded posthumously), Rob Potts (ACM Jim Reeves International Award, awarded posthumously) and Norro Wilson (ACM Poet’s Award, awarded posthumously). The evening also honored winners of the Industry and Studio Recording Awards, along with Songwriter of the Year Award winner, Rhett Akins.

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ACM

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: Jon Pardi (L) and Lauren Alaina speak onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for ACM)

Hosts Lauren Alaina and Jon Pardi opened the evening with a performance of Alan Jackson’s “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” and continued to honor the artists who came before them throughout the show.

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: Morgan Evans performs onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for AMC)

One of the most poignant moments of the show was when Morgan Evans performed his song, “Things We Drink To” in tribute to Rob Potts. Potts’ son Jeremy Dylan accepted the award, presented by Storme Warren, on his behalf. Potts had been a huge champion for Evans, who just scored his first number one song in the U.S.

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: Critter Fuqua, Ketch Secor, Morgan Jahnig, Joe Andrews and Cory Younts of Old Crow Medicine Show perform onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for AMC)

The crowd turned electric when Old Crow Medicine Show performed “Wagon Wheel” in honor of ACM Lifting Lives Award recipient, Darius Rucker, giving the band a standing ovation.

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: Dustin Lynch performs onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for ACM)

The newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Dustin Lynch, performed “Small Town Boy,” in tribute to Rhett Akins before the presentation of Akins’ Songwriter of the Year award.

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 22: (L-R) Ashley McBryde, Lauren Alaina, and Deana Carter perform onstage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for AMC)

The powerhouse trio of Lauren Alaina, Deana Carter and Ashley McBryde performed a medley of “You & Tequila,” “Wrong Side of Memphis” and “Strawberry Wine” before presenting Matraca Berg with her Poet’s Award.

Chris Stapleton on stage during the 12th Annual ACM Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Chris Stapleton ended the night with a performance of “Here in the Real World” in tribute to Alan Jackson before co-hosts Pardi and Alaina presented Jackson’s oldest daughter, Mattie Jackson Selecman with his award. Selecman accepted the award on behalf of Jackson who is still recovering from a respiratory infection.

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