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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Jerry Lewis said the handgun seized from his baggage by airport security in Las Vegas last month was an engraved gift given to him during his annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The 82-year-old entertainer, who was detained by police after the incident at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, explained why he was carrying a firearm in an interview with the TV show "Entertainment Tonight" airing on Thursday.
"I had a gun in my carrying case ... which was given to me by a marvelous engraver," Lewis said. "Last year, at the telethon of '07 he presented me with this gorgeous gift. I put it in that traveling case and I hadn't traveled since that telethon."
The unloaded .22-caliber handgun was found by airport screeners on July 25 while Lewis was on his way to an appearance in Michigan with his manager, Jeff Low, he told the TV program.
"When (Low) asked me if I had a gun, I said, 'I know what I packed, Jeff.' Then it all flashed, a whole year flashed in front of me," Lewis said.
Police issued Lewis a citation for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and the gun was confiscated. He must attend a court hearing to get it back, police said.
Lewis, half of a wildly successful comedic duo with singer Dean Martin in the 1950s and star of such movie classics as "The Nutty Professor," is due to host his 43rd annual Labor Day telethon starting August 31, live from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas.
Editing by Bill Trott