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Jay Leno's 'Jersey' Retired on "The Tonight Show"

Chris Haston/NBC(LOS ANGELES) -- With just two shows to go before he bids The Tonight Show goodbye for the second -- and presumably final -- time, Jay Leno was praised by Oscar nominee Matthew McConaughey and former NBA great Charles Barkley on Tuesday night's installment.

Leno started the show with a jab at his soon-to-be former employer's expense, saying, "I read today that NBC said they would like me to be just like Bob Hope: dead."

McConaughey credited Leno with calming his nerves before the actor's first appearance on the show in 1998, and in doing so, the Dallas Buyers Club star explained, Leno gave the actor something of a mantra.

"I was hanging out back there getting ready to come on, he comes back there, and says, 'You a little nervous?' I said, 'Yes sir,' and he goes, 'You wanna know the secret?...Just wanna be here.' Now that is not only a great secret for coming on Jay Leno's show," McConaughey said, "but I've taken that into places in life -- there's always things we don't wanna do but we know we gotta do 'em. You know what? do what Jay said: 'Just wanna be here. Just wanna be here' -- that's all you gotta do!"

Leno responded that he always loved having the actor on, and said he hoped he'll be able to congratulate him on his Oscar win soon.

For his part, Barkley passed on a sports tradition by retiring Leno's "jersey" -- his famous denim shirt.

"Well, I think I've been here 15 or 16 times," Barkley said. "I thought it was a coincidence that Jay [always wore] the same ugly blue shirt. But I found out he wears the shirt every day. So, we're retiring that thing."

The framed shirt bore the number 22, representing the number of years Leno was the host of the late night show.

Leno's final Tonight Show is Thursday. He promised even he will be surprised by the last installment; he explained his staff won't tell him what they have planned for his swan song.

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