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Marg Helgenberger's tearful 'CSI' goodbye

Entertainment Tonight

Marg Helgenberger has clocked in an impressive 260 episodes as "CSI's" Night-Shift Assistant Supervisor Catherine Willows, but tonight Helgenberger will mark her departure from the hit CBS show, a decision the actress describes as a "very emotional" one.

"It's been a fifth of my life, and it's been quite a ride," said Marg, holding back tears. "How can I leave this? ... It's so much more than a job and that's why it has such an impact on me."

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Entertainment Tonight was on hand as Helgenberger filmed her very last scenes for the show, and her castmates, both old and new, tell ET they still can't believe she's leaving.

Jorja Fox, who left the series in Season 8 only to return soon after, tells us she is still holding out hope that Marg will return just as she did. "I lovingly call this job The Hotel California," Jorga laughs. "There's a line in the song that says you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave, and I've made that joke to her several times in the last couple of weeks. I'm like, 'you'll be back'... I believe that in my heart of hearts. I think it makes it easier to say goodbye to her right now because in my heart she'll be back at some point, some time."

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"Every other day I'd make some joke about her staying," said co-star Ted Danson, however the CSI newbie understands Marg's desire to step away at this point in her life. "I totally get it. Eleven and a half years is a long time and part of you must want to strut your stuff elsewhere."

As for whether or not Helgenberger would consider a return, she tells us she's keeping her options open but is "certainly open to it."

Don't miss Marg's final episode of "CSI," airing tonight on CBS.

Related stories on ETonline.com:
Elisabeth Shue Joins 'CSI' Cast
Justin Bieber Shot Dead in 'CSI' Finale