LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) " Walmart is having all sorts of promotions for the back-to-school season, but selling firearms isn't one of them.

The world's largest retailer said Friday an internal investigation determined without a doubt that the company was pranked when a photograph emerged on social media showing a sign reading "Own The School Year Like A Hero" atop a gun case in a store.

"We have definite proof it was a prank," Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson told The Associated Press on Friday evening.

The photograph on social media included Walmart's superhero-themed, back-to-school promotion with a gun rack in a sporting goods section. Initially, the company apologized and said the sign was being taken down but then began to question whether it had been there at all.

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Crowson wouldn't say what proof the company had: Was an image manipulated? Did a customer move a sign for a joke? Did an employee deliberately or inadvertently place the "Own the School Year" sign on the wrong display?

He acknowledged only that the photo wasn't taken at a store in Evansville, Indiana, as had been originally suggested. He wouldn't say where the image had been made " only that the mystery had been solved.

"This is a result of a collective effort by a number of associates who take things like this seriously," he said.

After the post appeared this week, a number of people criticized the company on social media, expressing disgust. Among the samples: "Lemme just scoop my jaw off the floor" and "I've seen a lot of disturbing pictures of folks shopping at WalMart, but this tops them all."

The company has at times been pressured by shareholders about its gun sales. A New York church, for instance, petitioned in 2014 to have a shareholder vote on whether the company should sell products that "endanger public safety and well-being." The next year, the company said it would no longer sell high-powered rifles because of lower sales.

In 2006, the company stopped gun sales in about 1,000 stores " it has more than 4,500 nationwide " again citing a lack of demand.

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Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kisselAP