"I had a great time," he says. "I can't believe a hillbilly like me got to do this"

By Maureen Harrington
Updated May 09, 2007 08:20 AM

Billy Ray Cyrus was the only one on Dancing with the Stars who didn’t have an achy breaky heart Tuesday night.

Booted off a show he said he never really belonged on to begin with, the country singer took his final bow thanking God and Disney for the chance to dance.

“I had a great time. I can’t believe a hillbilly like me got to do this,” said Cyrus, who was due on the set of his Disney Channel show Hannah Montana on Wednesday.

“I’m grateful to all the people who helped me, but most especially Karina [Smirnoff], my beautiful partner. She put up with my big ol’ butt and feet.”

Cyrus, who made it – some say miraculously – through eight weeks of the contest, was once described as a “delicious mess” by judge Bruno Tonioli. And while he left with a smile, his fellow contestants were more emotional.

“I can’t believe he’s going to be gone,” said Apolo Ohno’s pro-dancer partner Julianne Hough, wiping away tears. “It gets harder as all these people leave.”

Even Laila Ali shed a few tears, but not before she said, “I intend to be standing on this stage when everyone is gone.”

(Her father, Muhammad Ali, was in the audience Monday night, prompting Cyrus to say after his elimination: “This is a celebration tonight. I got to meet my hero, Muhammad Ali, last night. I conquered my fear. I’m happy to be here and I’m ready to go on Jimmy Kimmel.”)

Next up, Cyrus is off to work with Heather Locklear on Hannah Montana. “From one beautiful girl to another,” he said with a smile. “From Karina to Heather. What more can you ask for?”