What was it like for Tom Brady to be back at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, taking in a Patriots game as an observer and honoree for the first time?

In a word: surreal.

That’s how Brady described his long-awaited and much-hyped return to Foxboro, Mass.

The legendary quarterback was recognized both pregame and at halftime in New England’s season-opening 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He wore a No. 12 jersey as he addressed the raucous home crowd and called himself a “Patriot for life.”

Story continues below advertisement

“A surreal day,” Brady said in an interview with Patriots.com after his ceremony, during which team owner Robert Kraft announced he’d be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame next June. “Tough to obviously put into words what this entire region has — how they’re a part of my life, how they’re a part of all the incredible memories I have. I had a great time growing up as a kid in California, but I really grew up here in New England.

“Living here in Massachusetts in Boston … I wouldn’t change a day in my life because of the incredible people that have come into my life. This is a very special day for my family, for myself, for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, so I’m just happy we were able to get back here and celebrate something really special.”

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Brady, who left the Patriots after the 2020 season and officially retired from the NFL this past February, was visibly emotional as he described the crowd’s reaction to his return.

Story continues below advertisement

“I feel it every single time,” he said. “Even when I came back here (as a player) a few years ago, I felt it. But today was unbelievable. One thing we love in New England is we love our sports heroes, and we love the people that have brought a lot of fun moments to our lives, and I’m so happy to be a part of those moments along with all my great teammates, my great coaches. (This is) the best organization this league has ever seen.”

Brady closed by sharing a message for young Patriots fans.

“We always put the team first,” he said, “and I think there’s a message I want to get across today: For all the kids out there in the communities in this region, what you can take from the Patriots (is) that it’s always about the team, and it’s about what you can do to help the team, what you can do to help your community, what you can do to help your family and what you can do to help your school.

“That’s ultimately what gives back the most. Because when you put it all out, the world has a way of giving it all back to you, and that’s certainly what I felt today.”

Story continues below advertisement

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images