By Letitia Stein

(Reuters) - After almost four decades on the run, an escaped North Carolina prison inmate is back behind bars in Kentucky, having turned himself in over medical issues, authorities said on Wednesday.

Clarence David Moore, 66, called the sheriff's department earlier this week in Franklin County, Kentucky, where he had been living under an alias for years, Sheriff Pat Melton said.

The detective who received his call initially thought it was a prank, then realized he was telling the truth, Melton said.

Melton and a deputy found Moore lying in a medical bed in his house.

Moore had been convicted on larceny charges, according to North Carolina prison records. Before his disappearance in 1976, he made two prior escapes - the second of which saw him at-large for nearly three years before he was captured in Texas.

He is expected to return to the North Carolina state prison system in the coming days, where a parole commission will review his case to determine what happens next, said a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Moore was also wanted locally in Kentucky for failing to appear in court after a more recent traffic crash, Melton said.

"He was very forthcoming. He was ready," said Melton in a phone interview, noting that Moore had become paralyzed on his right side after a stroke and suffered other health issues.

He said it appeared that Moore could not afford medical care and could not apply for assistance without identification.

Moore was booked at the Franklin County Regional Jail, but he is expected to return soon to North Carolina, Melton said.

"When I took him into the jail with the ambulance crew, he looked at me and said, 'Sheriff Melton, thank you for being nice to me,'" said Melton.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Eric Beech)