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What I was taught(in my own words):
When the combustion temperature gets high enough(to high?), nitric-oxides are produced. They cannot be "baked" in the cat, and there isn't any another way to deal with these gases. The EGR system prevents these emissions from being created. The EGR system dumps exhaust gas into the combustion chamber(through the manifold or plenum), and sort of "dumbs down" the fuel mixture, preventing the combust. temp. from reaching a point where it produces nitric-oxides.
 
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