Eddie Murphy, SNL 40

Eddie Murphy is one of the most influential cast members in "Saturday Night Live" history, so it made sense for him to take part in Sunday's "SNL 40" special in honor of the show's anniversary. The night was significant for Murphy especially, though, since it marked his first appearance on the program since leaving the show back in 1984.

Former cast member Chris Rock acknowledged the importance of Murphy's presence with a short tribute to the comedian, talking about how Murphy's "SNL" stint influenced his love of comedy as a child, and also helped save the flailing program from certain cancellation in the early '80s, when producer Lorne Michaels had briefly left the show. Rock listed off some of Murphy's most well-known characters and sketches, but said it was the small moments -- like Murphy helping stretch a short show with impromptu stand-up -- that really marked him as a genius.

"Every couple of years, the media tries to call some comic the next Eddie Murphy. ... There is no next Eddie Murphy," Rock said, before welcoming his hero to the stage.

For his part, Murphy seemed to be a bit nervous as he walked out to a standing ovation, delivering a short, awkwardly abrupt speech about his gratefulness for the opportunities "SNL" gave him and his fondness for the program.

"This show is such a big part of who I am ... and I am so happy to be back here," Murphy said.

Check out Rock's entire tribute, and Murphy's blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance, below.

Photo credit: Hulu