While Jackson did stroll on to the stage to accept his Artist of the Century award, his performance wasn't live, and it wasn't on stage.
Jackson's tribute was supposed to wrap up the three-hour ceremony telecast on ABC. On Tuesday a spokesperson for the show had said viewers would see a taped performance by Jackson of his 1988 single "Man in the Mirror" during the broadcast. But representatives for the singer reportedly demanded that producers not show the tape they had provided.
Instead of a live performance, Jackson took the stage and thanked a handful of people, including Marlon Brando, "his second father," and left. Viewers were then treated to a video montage of Jackson's greatest moments.
Jackson was in a bind because acts that perform at the AMA do not generally get invited to the more prestigious Grammy Awards. (Jackson received one Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "You Rock My World.") Jackson's backing out prompted AMA producer Dick Clark to bring a $10 million lawsuit against Recording Academy president and CEO Michael Greene, in which he alleges that Greene threatened to deny Jackson a performing slot at the Grammys if he performed at the AMAs.
Keys, Destiny's Child, Aaliyah and Tim McGraw each received two awards during the ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium.
Newcomer Keys, who was nominated for five awards, took home favorite new pop artist and favorite new soul artist. Her debut album Songs in A Minor has sold more than 4.2 million copies to date.
R&B trio Destiny's Child won favorite pop album, beating out 'N Sync and the Dave Matthews Band with their album Survivor, and was named favorite soul group.
Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash last August, won favorite album and favorite female artist in the soul/R&B categories.
Pop group 'N Sync won favorite pop/rock album, but was greeted with a spattering of boos and jeers while approaching the stage to accept their award.
"Oh, quit booing. U2's gonna get Grammys," singer Justin Timberlake quipped.
Tim McGraw and wife Faith Hill were named country's favorite male and female artists. McGraw also won favorite country album for Set This Circus Down.
Other winners included Nelly (favorite rap/hip hop artist), Limp Bizkit (favorite alternative music artist), Sade (favorite adult contemporary artist), Yolanda Adams (favorite contemporary inspirational), Enrique Iglesias (favorite Latin artist), Garth Brooks (award of merit) Brooks & Dunn (favorite band, duo, or group-country), Trick Pony (favorite new contemporary artist) and Save the Last Dance (favorite soundtrack).