Ronaiah was wearing a hoodie and tried to hide his face. He also didn't utter a single word when asked about his role in the hoax.
Just 24 hours before Ronaiah appeared in public, Manti had told ESPN ... Ronaiah had reached out to him -- confessed to the prank -- and apologized.
According to Manti, Ronaiah was the person who created "Lennay Kekua" -- who Manti believed was a real person ... and "dated" ... even though they never met in person.
Of course, the whole thing was a hoax -- Lennay never really lived ... or died from cancer on September 11.
Manti claims he and Ronaiah were simply acquaintances -- and insists he was only a victim in the hoax and not a co-conspirator.