Andy Griffith returned to his hometown Wednesday for his first official visit in 45 years, telling a crowd that his roots were planted deeply in North Carolina.
Griffith said he once questioned his grandmother about his family's origins.
"I used to wonder where the Griffith family came from -- England, Ireland, Wales. ... I asked my grandmother and she said, 'Oh, somewhere around these mountains,"' Griffith said.
The 76-year-old Griffith, best-known as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, a small, fictional North Carolina mountain town, was the guest of honor at a ceremony dedicating a segment of U.S. 52 as the Andy Griffith Parkway.
Griffith, who had not made an officials appearance in his hometown since 1957, arrived Tuesday with wife Cindi to tour local sights, including the Mount Airy Visitors Center where boyhood friend Emmett Forest has donated memorabilia of the star for an exhibit.
Griffith, who lives in Manteo, drove by the Andy Griffith Playhouse and spent the night in his boyhood home, now converted into a bed and breakfast.
"We are about as close as it gets to Mayberry," said Ann Vaughn, executive director of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, which operates the Mount Airy Visitors Center. "We have the same warmth and the same hospitality you see on the TV set."
Vaughn expected the town's population of 8,600 to double or triple for the dedication.
Tyrone Ivey and his wife, Joyce, drove to Mount Airy once a month to eat pork-chop sandwiches, get a haircut at Floyd's and experience life along the Main Street. The couple had planned Tuesday to arrive at Griffith's ceremony as early as 5:30 a.m. "I'd like to get as close as I could get," Tyrone Ivey said.
"I always looked up to Andy as sort of a second father."
The anticipation of Griffith's visit filled diners and shops along Main Street. Inside Floyd's, a crowd of people who are members of the rerun-watchers club gathered to trade information about the ceremony.
The Andy Griffith Parkway begins where U.S. 52 intersects with Interstate 74 and continue to the Virginia line.