Paris Hilton left jail Tuesday after a bizarre, three-week stay in which the hotel heiress was briefly released to her Hollywood Hills home, then sent screaming and crying back to a county lockup.

The 26-year-old celebutante walked out of the all-women’s jail in Lynwood to an enormous horde of cameras and reporters after midnight. She had checked into the jail, largely avoiding the spotlight, late June 3 after a surprise appearance at the MTV Movie Awards.

Hilton smiled as she left the jail, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her parents, Kathy and Rick, met her in a black SUV as cameras snapped pictures and Hilton, wearing a gold blouse with white trim over a white shirt and black slacks, waved to the crowd.

She didn’t say anything, and it wasn’t immediately clear where she was going.

Hilton will complete her probation in March 2009 as long as she keeps her driver’s license current and doesn’t break any laws. She can reduce that time by 12 months if she does community service that could include a public-service announcement, the city attorney’s office has said.

Hilton began her 45-day sentence for violating her probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case. She was mostly confined to a solitary cell in the special needs unit away from the other 2,200 inmates.

“She fulfilled her debt. She was obviously in good spirits. She thanked people as she left,” said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.