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Tim McGraw at CMA Fest After 10-Year Absence

Tim Mcgraw performs at the Nightly Concerts at LP Field on Thursday, June 10 in Downtown Nashville during the 2010 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: John Russell / CMA.

Tim Mcgraw performs at the Nightly Concerts at LP Field on Thursday, June 10 in Downtown Nashville during the 2010 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: John Russell / CMA.

When Tim McGraw turned up last Thursday to help kick off the opening night of the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, even he was shocked to discover it was his first time to play the fan-centric event in a decade.

Tim made his return in a big way, taking the stage at LP Field to play for more than 40,000 fans. He also spent time signing autographs for several thousand people.

“With kids and family and the way records have fallen and tours have fallen, when this time always showed up, I was right in the middle of doin’ something or I’d been doin’ so much that I just needed the time off,” he said backstage, explaining the long absence. “The kids were just gettin’ out of school, we were goin’ on vacation. It just never lined up right for us, and this year it did.”

The Country Music Association made good use of his return. Tim’s been tapped to host this year’s network special, “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock,” when it airs Sept. 1 on ABC.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said, “so I’ll see if I can not screw it up too bad.”

Meanwhile, Tim’s got some big plans on the table for next week. He and Faith Hill are hosting Nashville Rising, a flood-relief concert at Bridgestone Arena June 22. Toby Keith, Billy Ray Cyrus, Montgomery Gentry, Julie Roberts, Blake Shelton and ZZ Top are the latest additions to the lineup, which already included Taylor Swift, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride and plenty of others.

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