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Vieira makes her Today departure official, with incumbent Ann Curry taking her spot

Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry mess around a bit at May 9th news conference tied to Vieira's earlier announced departure from the No. 1-rated network morning show. NBC photo

NBC's No.1-rated Today will be passing a host torch again -- and earlier than originally planned.

After five years as mainstay Matt Lauer's second-in-command, Meredith Vieira officially announced what the network had more or less made public a few weeks ago. She'll be leaving the show to spend more time with her family, particularly husband Richard M. Cohen, who has multiple sclerosis. But at a later news conference in Manhattan, Vieira said her husband is in good health and "that's part of the reason I want to leave right now. I want to be there with him and I want to have fun, and I want to appreciate our time together."

Her last day with Today will be sometime in June, with longtime news anchor Ann Curry stepping in as her replacement while another incumbent, Natalie Morales, takes over Curry's position as news anchor.

The four of them, and weatherman Al Roker, gathered together to make the announcement on Monday's program. Vieira replaced Katie Couric after she left NBC to become anchor of the CBS Evening News, a position she'll also be leaving in June. She left ABC's The View to join Today, which remained on top of the network morning show ratings throughout Vieira's tenure.

"Meredith is universally adored here at Today. And we will miss you like crazy," said Lauer, who like Curry has been with the show since 1997.

"I just want you to know that you have been a gift to this broadcast," Curry told Vieira.

At the news conference, Lauer addressed reports that he, too, might be leaving Today after his latest contract with the show expires in December 2012.

"I've read the speculation. I've heard the stories," Lauer told reporters. "I have a long-term deal with NBC News. I'm going to be here for a while. You're going to get sick of me."

Lauer acknowledged talking about "the possibility" of co-hosting a syndicated talk show with Couric. But "it turned into just talk," he said. "And that's where we left it. It's not going to happen."

Vieira continues to host the syndicated daytime version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, a job she had before joining NBC. She also will make periodic appearances on Today and other NBC shows, the network says.

"We didn't want this day to happen," NBC News president Steve Capus told reporters. "We wanted Meredith to go on forever and ever."

***NBC Universal also will be losing one of its cable stars when CNBC anchor Erin Burnett leaves at the end of May to join CNN for a probable prime-time perch.

In a CNN publicity release, Burnett said she wanted to "expand my focus" beyond the business world. At CNBC she anchors Squawk on the Street and Street Signs.