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Toby Keith Reflected on 30-Year Career (and Cancer Journey) in Final PEOPLE Interview (Exclusive)

"You know where you were when you wrote all those songs," the country music icon explained in September 2023 at the People's Choice Country Awards

<p>Terry Wyatt/Getty Images</p> Toby Keith at the People

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Toby Keith at the People's Choice Country Awards in Nashville in September 2023

The genre-defining successes of Toby Keith's career were never lost on him.

"It's pretty magnificent," the iconic country singer-songwriter, whose family confirmed that he died at age 62 on Monday night after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021, told PEOPLE during his final interview with the brand at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards in September.

"Just seeing how enormous the career I amassed over 30 years when they show the video," he continued at the time, "You know where you were when you wrote all those songs, you hear those numbers and you're just like, you looked up one day and all of a sudden 30 years went by."

Related: Reba McEntire Shares Memories of Touring with Late 'Distinctive Vocalist' Toby Keith (Exclusive)

<p>Allen Clark/NBC via Getty</p> Toby Keith accepts the country icon award on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 28, 2023 in Nashville

Allen Clark/NBC via Getty

Toby Keith accepts the country icon award on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 28, 2023 in Nashville

During the event, which he and Wynonna Judd were the main honorees for their historical contributions to country music, Blake Shelton presented the "I Love This Bar" singer with the inaugural country music icon award.

Keith, who had "known [Shelton] forever," was in good spirits about receiving an award from the man whose career he supported from the start.

"I took him out when I first got headliner status early on and I was his first big tour he got. He lived in Oklahoma, so we're kindred spirits, a lot alike. We have fun together," he added.

Keith's acceptance of the award, and subsequent performance of his 2019 track "Don't Let the Old Man In" live at the show, was a landmark one for the artist as it was his first televised performance since his stomach cancer diagnosis.

<p>Mickey Bernal/NBC via Getty</p> Toby Keith performs on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 28, 2023 in Nashville

Mickey Bernal/NBC via Getty

Toby Keith performs on stage during the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards held at the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 28, 2023 in Nashville

Related: Toby Keith 'Was Misunderstood' and Painted as an 'Incorrect Portrait,' Says Longtime Rep (Exclusive)

Marking his return to the Grand Ole Opry with the PCCAs performance, which was his last time stepping on that legendary stage before his death, Keith told PEOPLE he enjoyed "just seeing everybody."

"It's real festive and it's always fun, these things," he added.

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Ahead of the PCCAs, Keith also performed two shows at the Hollywood Corners bar in Norman, Oklahoma, on June 30 and July 1, which was his first time playing live since his diagnosis.

He noted that doing the shows, which took place in his home state "was fun," adding, "I'd been off the road and I didn't know how much wind I had. I didn't know how my diaphragm was, and so I just got up and did a couple of big shows to see what I could do and I got through them fine."

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