Joey Chestnut said his "natural instincts" kicked in when he was rushed by and took down a protester during his 15th Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest championship victory on Monday (July 4).
During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show Tuesday (July 5), Chestnut discussed the now-viral video of himself tackling a protester in a Darth Vader mask all while continuing to chew en route to eating a contest-winning 63 hot dogs and buns.
"It was reaction, just natural instincts," Chestnut said. "I thought somebody fell into me at first, I didn't know it was a protester until I saw the mask and it just happened and I wanted to get back into eating."
"As soon as I grabbed him I realized he was a kid," Chestnut added. "I was like, 'oh, this is a kid' and, I mean, he was vegan so he was really skinny and, so yeah, he fell to the ground and he curled up and I got to get back into it.
The incident wasn't shown on ESPNNews' live broadcast of the event, however, a clip shared by by Twitter user @JonahBlock05 went viral on social media.
Chestnut's victory marked his seventh consecutive Nathan's championship while competing on crutches due to a ruptured tendon in his leg.
Last year, Chestnut broke his previous world record of 74 hot dogs and buns eaten set in 2018 by consuming 75.
The Kentucky native won his first Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2007, defeating then-six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, by eating 66 hot dogs and buns.
Chestnut won eight consecutive championships before being defeated by Matt Stonie in 2015 and then winning the next seven consecutive titles from 2016 to 2021.
Geoffrey Esper, of Oxford, Massachusetts, finished in second with 47.5 hot dogs and buns eaten and James Webb, of Sydney, Australia, finished third with 41 consumed.