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Talk about a fast recovery — less than one one week after seriously injuring his neck in rehearsal, Derek Hough, the pro partner of actress Shannon Elizabeth on Dancing With the Stars, made a miracle comeback on Monday night’s show.

Last week, the shaken American Pie beauty had told OK! that their promising dance partnership was up in the air following Derek’s injury. The sprained muscle caused the dancer, whose sister, Julianne Hough, is also a dancer on the hit show, to visit the hospital, where doctors determined he needed to wear a neck brace.

According to Shannon, Derek couldn’t even move his head to the left side — and she wondered if they’d be able to continue in the competition.

But on Monday, the duo pulled off what had been thought impossible — a graceful Viennese waltz that earned them a near-perfect 28 out of 30 points from the judges. Only Kristi Yamaguchi and Jason Taylor, who both earned scores of 29, fared better than Derek and Shannon.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” a smiling Derek revealed to OK! backstage. “My neck is still stiff, but it will be fine. It’s nothing I can’t handle and that we can’t get through. Nothing will hold me back.”

Shannon appeared wowed by her partner’s recovery. “He’s amazing! I keep having to sit him down and make sure he’s okay," she explained. "I know he’ll push himself too much and he seems to care more about me than his neck — and I think he needs to care about his neck!"

She told OK! that Derek was all about getting back out on the dance floor as quickly as possible. “He was trying to be on his feet the first day after the injury," Shannon said. "Then it would hurt, and I’d sit him back down. He’d try again and it would hurt and I’d sit him back down.”

Fellow dancer Tony Dovolani, who performs with Marissa Jaret Winokur, was impressed with Derek’s speedy recovery: “He came through it like a champ!”

So was the home audience as impressed with Derek’s recovery as the judges? Find out tomorrow night when the results are revealed live.

By Carole Glines

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