April 01, 2004 03:50 PM

It’s no easy task stealing Beyonce’s thunder, but Whitney Houston did her best when she made a surprise appearance at the Verizon Ladies First Tour — featuring Knowles, Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott — on Sunday in Atlanta, PEOPLE reports.

Houston, who had arrived backstage, appeared in the crowd shortly before the show began. Wearing a gray-and-black fur coat and gray Kangol-style cap in the 60-degree weather, the diva ignited the audience as she walked in, trailed by a small entourage that included 11-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina and a number of security guards.

As word spread through the audience about Houston’s arrival, the crowd went wild, jumping up and down and waving their arms in support of the troubled singer.

Houston recently checked into a drug rehab center, and then checked back out five days later. Reps for the singer say Houston is continuing with the program at a private facility near her Atlanta home.

As for the Atlanta concert appearance, Houston’s rep, Nancy Seltzer, called the visit “an authorized outing” and said it was in line with the singer’s recovery. “She attended with members of her (rehab) program,” Seltzer said.

Meanwhile, Houston’s mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, told New York radio station KISS-FM that she will hold an April 5 prayer vigil at a Harlem church for her daughter, PEOPLE reports.

“Nothing we have done so far has helped, but we know that God can change things,” Cissy said.

As for Houston’s husband Bobby Brown, he was in and out of jail and courtrooms last week, as he wrapped up a sentence in Georgia, only to head to a court in Massachusetts were he was jailed for failure to pay back child support. He has since been released.

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