Fabrice Muamba was overcome by emotion as he returned to Bolton for the first time since his cardiac arrest.
The Bolton midfielder was given a huge ovation as he was introduced to the crowd prior to last night's Barclays Premier League game against Tottenham at the Reebok Stadium.
Muamba cried as he acknowledged applause from all sides of the ground in a poignant tribute.
The 24-year-old has made a remarkable recovery since collapsing on the pitch during the FA Cup tie between the same two sides at White Hart Lane on 17 March.
Muamba's heart stopped beating for 78 minutes and he spent a month at the London Chest Hospital before being discharged a fortnight ago.
He arrived at the ground an hour before kick-off yesterday and spent time in the players' lounge and meeting other club staff before and after the game.
The former England Under-21 player told Sky Sports: "This is a special place, the support has been overwhelming and I am just grateful for that.
"I am okay, I am getting stronger every day. I am happy to be back. I am just happy to be able to speak to people again and walk freely.
"I am very happy and very excited for today's game and I am happy that I came today."
Asked about the support he has received, he said: "It helps me every single day.
"I still have six or seven boxes of cards to go through and I am grateful for that. It stays in my mind every single day.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank your for your support, the whole country has been overwhelming and I am grateful I can walk again and do things normally again."
Bolton manager Owen Coyle said Muamba's return had been uplifting.
He said: "To see Fabrice here - he came in before the game and it was quite emotional, as you can imagine.
"We are absolutely delighted with his recovery. That was paramount for Fabrice and his family, I have always said that.
"It was fantastic to see him and for everyone else to see how he is recovering."
Coyle was asked if he thought Muamba could ever play again but said that was not a question he could answer.
Coyle said: "I think it is too early to say but he is certainly going in the right direction in terms of improving.
"That will be in consultation with the medical people.
"God willing he will but it is far too early to answer that question."
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said: "It was fantastic, absolutely brilliant, to see him smiling, to see him alive. It was wonderful.
"I'll never forget him getting wheeled down that tunnel.
"It was unbelievable. I really, genuinely, didn't think we'd see him again."