9:39am PT by Erik Hayden
Sam Champion's 'GMA' Sendoff: Tears and Tributes (Video)
Sam Champion, who is leaving Good Morning America to launch a flagship morning show at The Weather Channel, was given a heartfelt farewell by his ABC News colleagues on his final day as a weather anchor for the network.
"I think it's something that people will go through in their life, when you want to stay doing something you want to, and there's an opportunity that says, 'You gotta take it,' " he told his fellow anchors during the sendoff, adding: "And I'm not going to leave you guys."
Champion had been with ABC for 25 years and joined GMA in 2006. Tributes to the departing anchor included a retrospective of his ABC career and a segment in which he ushered in the new GMA weather anchor, Ginger Zee.
Champion also greeted fans holding cut-out images of the anchor while he did his last weather report for GMA.
"People are saying, 'How can you be celebrating?' It's because of the love," said anchor Robin Roberts. "And the fact that, yeah, we're sad to see you go but we're so happy for you and this next chapter you're embarking on."
News anchor Josh Elliott teared up as he recalled working with Champion. "I just want to say thank you, because it's been a gift each and every day to work with you, Sam," Elliott remarked. "A lot of people talked about our bromance -- for me, it was just a friendship."
Champion will be based at The Weather Channel's Atlanta office. His new program is set to launch in early 2014.