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Amanda Knox reaches U.S. soil after four years in Italian prison

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After 4-year ordeal, a Seattle homecoming for Knox

Amanda Knox (right) arrives from Rome with family members at Heathrow Airport in London on Tuesday. (Photo: Associated Press)

SEATTLE (AP) - Amanda Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle on Tuesday and was as overcome with emotion as she was a day earlier in Italy, when she was acquitted on murder charges after four years in prison. "Thank you for being there for me," she tearfully told her supporters in front of a crowd of international reporters.

"I'm really overwhelmed right now," she said at a news conference minutes after she was escorted off a British Airways flight out of London. "I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn't real."

Knox's life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate. On Tuesday, photos of Knox crying in the courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.

Wearing a brown cardigan and black leggings, with her hair in a ponytail, Knox sobbed at the news conference and held her mother's hand as her lawyer Theodore Simon said her acquittal "unmistakably announced to the world" that she was not responsible for the killing of Meredith Kercher.

After her parents offered their thanks to Knox's lawyers and supporters, Knox spoke briefly, saying, "They're reminding me to speak in English, because I'm having problems with that."

"Thank you to everyone who's believed in me, who's defended me, who's supported my family," she said.

"My family's the most important thing to me so I just want to go and be with them, so, thank you for being there for me," she said before she and her family left for a welcome-home party at her father's house.

Knox's acquittal, fueled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim's family and angered the prosecution, which insists that she was among three people who killed Kercher, 21. But for Knox's grandmother Elisabeth Huff, "it was like the weight of the world had gone."

"We all are as happy as can be. I can't tell you how long we've been looking forward to this day," Huff told The Associated Press outside her home in West Seattle, a tight-knit community a few miles across Elliott Bay from downtown.

Friends and family who held spaghetti dinners, bowling events and concerts to raise money for Knox's defense were thrilled to have her home, though at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport her supporters were a small presence compared to the dozens of U.S. and international reporters.

"WELCOME HOME AMANDA," read the marquee at a record store in the neighborhood where Knox grew up. Another welcome sign was hung at her father's house. A bar offered half-price drinks to celebrate her acquittal. At least one TV station in Washington state tracked the progress of her flight on the air using a plane-tracking website.

Knox, 24, left Perugia's Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.

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