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Martha Snubs Leno for Letterman

Martha Snubs Leno for Letterman
Martha Stewart with producer Mark Burnett
Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS; Frank Franklin II/AP

09/08/2005 AT 08:00 AM EDT

NBC's newest star Martha Stewart appeared on the network's Today show Thursday morning for her first TV appearance since her release from prison and subsequent house arrest.

But the domestic diva's initial late-night talk show will not be with NBC Tonight star Jay Leno: It will be with his contentious CBS rival, David Letterman.

Stewart's due to trade quips with Dave on Monday, Sept. 19 – two days before the debut of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart and a week after her daily syndicated lifestyle show Martha makes its bow.

The trade paper Hollywood Reporter calls the CBS booking "a surprise," given that Stewart is ostensibly plugging her new role as the host of a new version of NBC's The Apprentice and that Martha is being distributed by NBC Universal's syndication.

None of the involved parties had comment on the planned appearances, though the Reporter notes that Martha has been something of a Late Show with David Letterman fixture, having made some 23 appearances there in various interviews, comedy pieces and demonstrations since the show's 1993 premiere.

Her last appearance on Late Show was on May 17, 2002.

On Today, host Matt Lauer compared Stewart to a phoenix rising. "And I didn't burn," she interjected. Asked what it was like to lose her ankle electronic monitoring device, she said that it came off shortly after midnight, so that rather than "celebrate," she was "really tired and just ready to go to sleep."

Meanwhile, in other Apprentice news, Bill Rancic, the April 2004 first season winner, has announced he will cease working for the mogul once his contract expires next March.

"That will probably be it for me," Rancic, a former Internet entrepreneur who helped oversee a new Chicago skyscraper for Trump, said late Wednesday during a global leadership forum in Malaysia. "I'm going to go out and start another business of my own. That's in my blood."

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