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'I miss Alex, very much': Ken Jennings fights emotions in first 'Jeopardy!' as guest host

The all-time 'Jeopardy!' champion hosted the first new episode of the quiz show since Alex Trebek's death in November.

All-time champion Ken Jennings choked up a little Monday night as he guest hosted the first new episode of "Jeopardy!" without Alex Trebek.

"Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life," Jennings said. "Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years. And it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, his charm, his grace. Really, there's no other word for it."

Then Jennings' emotions started to get to him a little bit.

"Like all 'Jeopardy!' fans, I miss Alex, very much. And I thank him for what he did for all of us. Let's be totally clear: no one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek, but we can honor him by playing the game he loved," Jennings said.

USA TODAY's Kelly Lawler described Jennings as scripted and tense at the start of the episode, but he loosened up near the end.

"Jennings has almost mastered the way Trebek used inflection to make the clues sound both interesting and a little bit like questions. His boyish charm bubbled over as a contestant won a big 'Daily Double' and genuine disappointment when another, who talked about her singing hobby, missed out on a clue with the correct response, 'What is choir?'" Lawler wrote.

Trebek died Nov. 8 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The final episode he recorded before his death aired last Friday.

Jennings will be one of several guests hosts while the show searches for a permanent successor to Trebek. The Los Angeles Times reports Katie Couric also recorded at least a week's worth of episodes. There's reportedly been no official confirmation from Sony, which produces "Jeopardy!" 

After the end of Tuesday's show, the "Jeopardy!" Twitter account sent out this clip of Jennings reminding viewers of Trebek's belief that the contestants are the stars of the show. 

RELATED: Alex Trebek's final 'Jeopardy!' episode closes with sentimental video tribute

RELATED: Ken Jennings says time as Jeopardy! guest host has shown how much the show meant to Alex Trebek: 'He was just the best.'

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