Watch Stephen Colbert's Heartfelt Goodbye to Jon Stewart on 'Daily Show'

"All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours," former correspondent tells host

Stephen Colbert made a surprise appearance on Jon Stewart's final Daily Show to deliver an impromptu, heartfelt thank you to the host. Colbert, a former Daily Show correspondent who used the show as a launching pad to The Colbert Report and CBS' Late Show, first shared a long metaphor comparing Stewart's Daily Show journey to Colbert's beloved Lord of the Rings. Stewart then attempted to send the segment to commercial break.

"Actually Jon, we're not quite done," Colbert told an evasive Stewart. "You can't stop anyone because they don't work for you anymore. Huge mistake, Jon. It'll be quick if you just hold still." Colbert, speaking on behalf of all Daily Show correspondents, then hijacked the segment with an unscripted tribute to the host that left Stewart fighting back tears.

"Jon, I've been asked and have the privilege to say something to you that is not on the prompter right now. Here's the thing, Jon: You said to me and many other people here years ago to never thank you because we owe you nothing. It is one of the few times I've known you to be dead wrong," Colbert told Stewart, who tried his best to contain his emotions. "We owe you. And not just what you did for our career by employing us to come on this tremendous show that you made. We owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect. You were infuriatingly good at your job."

Colbert then joked that, if it weren't for Stewart, he'd be a Appalachian turd miner suffering from "dung lung." "All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours," Colbert said. "And we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man."

Colbert ended his send-off with one last emphatic "Thank you" before Stewart sends the segment to commercial, but not before all the Daily Show correspondents indebted to Stewart huddled around the host's desk for a giant group hug.

Earlier in the show, dozens of former correspondents re-emerged to send off the host one last time, including John Oliver, Wyatt Cenac and Ed Helms. The segment also featured a brief cameo by Craig Kilborn, the show's original host.