"I'm ready to get back to them drinking songs," he said with a grin after Wednesday night's show at the Grand Ole Opry House. "(It has been) too heavy all the time.
"I've always looked at music as more as entertainment. I've tried not to be too preachy in my songs, because for the most part people want music that's happy."
Jackson wrote "Where Were You" shortly after the attacks on New York and Washington, and performed it days later at the 2001 CMA Awards. Although he didn't want it released as a single for fear of capitalizing on the tragedy, the song took on a life of its own as radio stations started broadcasting his performance.
"I'm still humbled by this whole experience that came with this song. It's uplifting and hard to swallow at the same time," he said after winning the single of the year honor, which he dedicated to "all those people who've hurt so much."
Jackson was nominated a record 10 times, and tied a record for most awards won in a single year with five. Johnny Cash had that many in 1969, as did Vince Gill in 1993.
He also received his second entertainer of the year award (his first was in 1995), won male vocalist of the year and took album of the year for "Drive," his second such award. His first came in 1994 when he shared the honor for his contribution to the all-star collaboration "Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles."
A tearful Martina McBride accepted her second female vocalist of the year award after performing her new single "Concrete Angel." She also won in 1999.
"I was not prepared for this emotion that I'm feeling, it's just so amazing that I get to live this dream," she said.
The Dixie Chicks were named vocal group of the year for the fourth time; Brooks & Dunn took home their 10th award for vocal duo of the year; and Brad Paisley beat out Jackson for music video of the year honors for "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)."
The night also signaled the return of Shania Twain to the national spotlight. She added a bit of pop to the show, bounding onto the stage in a black catsuit to sing "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" - her first network performance since beginning an almost three-year hiatus in 1999, when she was CMA entertainer of the year.
"It didn't have the scary impact that I thought it would," Twain said of her performance. She releases a new album later this month.
Gill, hosting the show for the 11th straight year, joked after Twain's performance about his yearly effort to lose weight before the awards.
"I've lost 26 pounds for this year's show. I lose 20 more, I'm showing my belly button like (Twain)," he said with a laugh.
Dolly Parton welcomed the Country Music Hall of Fame's newest inductees - Bill Carlisle and Porter Wagoner - with a video montage of their careers.
"I like to think of myself as a link, a link between the real pioneers of country music and the stars of tomorrow," said Wagoner, an early mentor of Parton, as he walked onstage. Carlisle waved from his seat in the audience, but didn't speak.
Country trio Rascal Flatts won the Horizon Award, which goes to a performer or group with top career prospects.
Before the show, Willie Nelson received the vocal event of the year award for "Mendocino County Line," his single with Lee Ann Womack. And Jerry Douglas, who plays dobro with Alison Krauss and Union Station, was named musician of the year.
Country music sales are up in a generally sluggish year industry-wide. As of Oct. 27, country music sales for 2002 totaled 51.9 million, up 5.5 percent from the same period last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Overall music sales were down 10.5 percent over the same period.
The CMA is a trade organization which promotes country music. About 6,000 members nominate and vote for award winners.
By Amber McDowell