Here’s the story behind this performance straight from YouTube user Ronja2H2:
At the 1999 ceremony, George Jones, just months removed from a near-fatal car accident, was nominated for Single of the Year for his autobiographical ballad “Choices.” When CMA executives asked for Jones to sing a shortened version of the nominated song, he opted to stay home as a sign of his irritation at their request. Jackson, prompted by his admiration for Jones and his frustration with the CMA, quietly but rebelliously shifted into “Choices” halfway through his scheduled performance of his current single, “Pop A Top.”
After finishing the song, he silently walked off stage while industry executives and artists alike rose to their feet with a standing ovation. Jackson would exit the Opry house and not return for the rest of the evening. When asked later about Jackson’s decision, Jones said, “What he did [at the CMAs] meant more to me than I could ever say. I was watching the show, and when he began singing ‘Choices,’ it moved my wife Nancy and me both to tears. He made a huge statement on my behalf, and on behalf of traditional country music, and didn’t worry about what the consequences might be.” In the war of art and commerce, Jackson chose to honor the humble beginnings of the genre when those values were compromised, and was justly rewarded with positive press as a result of his indignant, yet popular, actions that evening.