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HOUSTON -- Thousands of fans packed the Reliant Center over the weekend to welcome celebrity chef Paula Deen in her first public appearance since her media and merchandising empire took a hit after she admitted using racial slurs.

The celebrity chef wiped tears Saturday away after walking out to huge cheers at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show. She appeared at the show with her two sons, Jamie and Bobby.

I ve said all along that the one place that I would want to make my first step back out was Texas, Deen said to the crowd.

Deen was dropped by the Food Network and several major sponsors after a racial harassment lawsuit was filed against her. The judge later dismissed the suit.

Deen said she's learned a lot.

Some of life's lessons are very expensive, she told the crowd Sunday. But as long as we look back over our shoulder and learn from those mistakes, maybe it's worth the price, I don't know.

This was the third year that Deen has come to Houston for the show.

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