Kelly Preston: Deep Down, Charlie Sheen Is a Good Person

Kelly Preston: Charlie Sheen a Good Person
Kelly Preston and Charlie Sheen
Jason LaVeris/Getty, Phil McCarten/AP

updated 03/10/2011 AT 01:15 PM EST

originally published 03/10/2011 AT 10:00 AM EST

Twenty years ago, Kelly Preston almost became Mrs. Charlie Sheen. And while their engagement ended with a bizarre, still mysterious incident in which Sheen accidentally shot her in the arm, Preston still has a place in her heart for the man she almost called her husband.

"My heart just goes out to him, and all of his family," the actress, 48, tells PEOPLE. "He's such a good person underneath all of it, he really is."

While most of the world awaits the latest Sheen tweet, rambling interview or Tiger Blood cocktail recipe, Preston recalls the days long before the troubled actor became a punch line.

Kelly Preston: Deep Down, Charlie Sheen Is a Good Person| Charlie Sheen, Kelly Preston

Kelly Preston and Charlie Sheen, in 1989

Ron Galella / Wireimage

"We were together for a year, and he wasn't drinking, and he wasn't doing drugs," Preston said at Wednesday's opening of friend Kirstie Alley's Organic Liaison store in Los Angeles. "And there's a beautiful person in there. He really is a great man."

Preston went on to marry and raise a family with John Travolta – they just welcomed a new baby boy in November. But she still holds out hope that Sheen can find that same happiness, and return from the precipice of self-destruction.

"I think there's a way back for anyone," she says of the man she once loved. "I always have hope, and my prayers are with him."

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