Kate Upton returns to the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It’s her third appearance. (Photo: Sports Illustrated)

Kate Upton the buxom swimsuit model who vaulted to fame the first time she landed on the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, is back for a return engagement on this year’s issue, posing braless in a bikini bottom and short jacket.

Upton, 24, is moving into the elite ranks of cover models with her third appearance on the much hyped issue.

Related: Kate Upton Felt Used, Objectified by Sports Illustrated (photos)

She appeared on the “Today” show this morning to talk about the honor. The cover was unveiled last night on “The Late Show with Jimmy Kimmel.”

“Growing up in such a sports oriented family, Sports Illustrated always meant to much so me, seeing these amazing women who were so confident and loved their bodies,” she said.

The magazine issue is also notable because Christie Brinkley, 63, appears inside the magazine. Upton called her appearance “inspiring.”

Related: Kate Upton Makes First Appearance Since Nude Photo Scandal (photos!)

“No matter your age, you always have your youth and your spirit with you.” she said. “It always feels great to be a part of Sports Illustrated, but especially this year because of what the issue is all about.


“Having woman of every shape and size and beauty and every age of beauty. It just felt really special when they asked me to come back for this issue.”

Related: Kate Upton, Celebs in Nude Photo Hack Share One Thing in Common

Indeed, during Upton’s first cover appearance, she was criticized for her weight. Some boo-birds even said she looked slovenly because of her big breasts and voluptuous curves.

The magazine continues a trend to more nudity, putting it closer to Playboy rather than a sports magazine.

Upton was one of scores of celebrities who were caught up in a hacking scandal that saw dozens of her private photos and videos, many nude, released on the Internet.

Check out her “Today” show interview below and some of Upton’s hottest photos.

Kate Upton Sizzles in Jenna Leigh Lingerie (Click Photos to Enlarge!)