LAS VEGAS, March 1, 2009— -- When Las Vegas legend Roy Horn was hurt onstage by one of his beloved white tigers more than five years ago, many feared he would never walk or talk again.
But Saturday night, Horn and his longtime illusionist partner Siegfried Fischbacher -- the pair known the world over as Siegfried & Roy -- returned to the stage in dramatic style, performing an illusion with what their manager said was the very tiger that nearly ended Horn's life.
Watch Siegfried & Roy's performance in "Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Returns," a special edition of ABC News' "20/20," Friday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET.
With tigers in tow, the duo, who performed to sellout audiences for more than 13 years at the MGM Mirage, appeared in front of a crowd of 1,100 at the annual Power of Love Gala at the Bellagio Resort, a benefit to raise money and awareness for the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute.
The institute, which is opening a new Frank Gehry-designed complex in Las Vegas this year, is dedicated to the study and treatment of debilitating neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
"Having lived through Roy's recovery, watching how amazing the human spirit can be, we just want to pass along the kind of help we've received," Fischbacher told ABC News. "We'll know we're not onstage just for 'Siegfried & Roy,' but for every patient who the Ruvo Institute can help."
Siegfried shocked everyone when he announced the comeback performance at the Power of Love gala last year …including Roy. Roy told Elizabeth Vargas he had no idea what Siegfried was thinking, but "he just spoke up, [and] l feel the same... it's giving something back to the community. " Siegfried said the duo would perform this year to show the charity's supporters and the world that brain injuries and illnesses can be conquered through will and determination.
And that's what it has taken Siegfried & Roy during more than five years of excruciatingly painful rehabilitation.
The story of their rise to fame in Las Vegas, the tragic events onstage that nearly cost Horn his life, and the dramatic rehab that made the performance Saturday night possible will be told in an hourlong Elizabeth Vargas special edition of ABC News' "20/20," scheduled to air Friday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET.
Siegfried & Roy Make Tiger Magic Again
Even before the show began, it was obvious this would be a special night. On the Hollywood-style red carpet at the Bellagio, celebrities from stage and screen and luminaries from Las Vegas talked about the thrill of getting to see Siegfried & Roy again.
"I have goosebumps just thinking about seeing them on stage after all this time," said celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. "It's a miracle that Roy's even here to be on stage at all."
And as palpable as the excitement was in the audience, it was equally intense on stage when the two performers finally took the stage, wearing masks and their trademark costumes and capes.
The intensity of the expectations wasn't lost on the performers, either. After nearly 5,800 shows, the usually intrepid Fischbacher said he had butterflies Saturday night.
"I'm nervous, sick nervous, but also excited," he said before the show.
The performance was barely 10 minutes long, but when the duo revealed a giant white tiger at the end, said by their manager to be Montecore, the white tiger who attacked Horn in October 2003, and Siegfried & Roy removed their masks to delight of the roaring audience, there were as many tears as there were bravos from the crowd.
It was an inspirational moment more than five years in the making that Siegfried & Roy later said backstage serves as a testament to all who are challenged by brain illness or injury.
That testament came with a message of support for the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, as well as a kind of thank-you to the fans who they say never stopped believing that the magic of Siegfried & Roy would one day return.
"I think this is the perfect thing to say a nice au revoir, auf Wiedersehen," Fischbacher said. "You know we did 45 years, we performed live onstage in Las Vegas and all over the world and now it's time to take time and relax a little bit and enjoy life."
He said they have no plans to perform again, and this was their goodbye.