CMAs pay tribute to Willie Nelson, Andy Griffith

This undated file image shows cast members from "The Andy Griffith Show," from left, Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife, Ron Howard as Opie Taylor and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor.
AP Photo/Viacom, file

Country fans expected the Country Music Association to honor singer-songwriter Willie Nelson as its annual Country Music Awards Thursday night in Nashville.

But the simple and moving tribute to late actor Andy Griffith was a surprise.

Co-host Brad Paisley played the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show" as scenes from the show flashed in the background.

Griffith, the actor who played small-town sheriff Andy Taylor on the long-running TV show, died July 3 at his home in North Carolina. He was 86.

Lady Antebellum kicked off the tribute to Nelson with "Always On My Mind" and "Crazy."

Nelson, who received the lifetime achievement award, was also serenaded by Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.