After 33 years and 6,028 shows, David Letterman signs off

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NEW YORK -- David Letterman ended his late-night television career with a heartfelt "good night" and goodbye to viewers.

"The only thing I have left to do for the last time on a television program ... thank you and good night," Letterman said.

There were no tears from Letterman, but the sign-off moment was emotional, especially for his longtime staffers and the lucky fans who were inside the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Letterman's finale -- which he previously called "the most important show of my life" -- closed out with the Foo Fighters performing one of the host's favorite songs, "Everlong."

The show opened with three former presidents and President Barack Obama appearing via videotape, with each saying that "our long national nightmare is over." Letterman then appeared with Obama -- "You're just kidding, right?" he asked the president.

Letterman's announcer Alan Kalter, introduced the host as "a boy from a small town in Indiana," drawing laughs from the audience.

In his final monologue, the host touched on a sore point in his career saying, "I'll be honest with you, it's looking like I won't be getting 'The Tonight Show.'"

At one point, Letterman poked fun at himself by asking how he knew it was time to retire.

"One of the signs was -- Todd, the cue card kid, came up to me and said, 'For the love of god, Dave, I can't write the words any bigger,'" Letterman joked.

Letterman's wife Regina and son Harry were in the audience.

The final Top 10 list was "The Top 10 things I've always wanted to say to Dave" and included Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The rest of the late night world also took notice of Letterman's farewell this week -- Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, other late night hosts, told their audiences to tune in to Letterman.

Fans said the taping had a historic feel to it.

David Eisenstein, 70, from Springfield, N.J. said, "I was experiencing something that I will never forget."

Wednesday's show was 6,028 for Letterman, counting his work on NBC and CBS.

"He changed television forever," Letterman's former head writers Eric and Justin Stangel said in an email. "There will never be anyone like him. We are throwing out our TVs."

It was meaningful that the Foo Fighters were there on Wednesday. When the band played on the show last year, Letterman told an emotional story about how the band's song "Miracle" had been added to a video of him and his son, Harry, skiing together. The band was also there the night Letterman returned from heart surgery.