GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (AP) _ Cheerios, the cereal introduced to the nation on the Lone Ranger's radio show, celebrated 50 years on America's breakfast tables Wednesday.

Introduced by General Mills in 1941, the crispy, ''O''-shaped cereal now is bought by more than 48 percent of all American households, the company said.

Cheerios accounts for almost a tenth of all ready-to-eat cereals sold in a $7 billion U.S. retail market, General Mills said.

From 1941 to 1949, Cheerios advertisements were broadcast during station breaks on ''The Lone Ranger'' radio show.

When the folk hero and his trusty companion, Tonto, moved from radio to the new medium of television in 1949, Cheerios galloped right along.

Back then, silver bullets were buried in packages of the cereal and Lone Ranger flashlight pistols could be ordered for a dime and a yellow boxtop.

The cereal's giveaways changed with the times, including 3-D comic books in the 1950s and ''stratosphere'' kites and moon rockets in the 1960s.

''Cheerios is a cereal for all ages,'' said John Hallberg, director of General Mills' business unit. An estimated 10 percent of all Cheerios are eaten by children younger than 2, and Cheerios is the second-most popular cereal among those older than 45, he said.

As part of ''Cheerios Day'' events, the company released the following facts about the cereal:

-A Cheerio is 1/2 -inch in diameter.

-A Cheerio weighs about .0025 of an ounce.

-There are about 400 individual Cheerios in a one-ounce serving.