8 Memorable Homecoming Games (That Also Scored Big In The Ratings)

Brett Favre, Traitor

Photo: AP

Tonight’s Monday Night Football game between Minnesota and New York promises to be one of the highest-rated football games (if not television broadcasts) of the entire year. And this was even before the Brett Favre scandal made it a nationwide awkward moment.Tonight’s game features not one, but two superstars returning to places they once called home.

One is Favre, who will be playing his first game against the Jets since his one-year stint in New York in 2008. It won’t have quite the same passion as his first battle againt Green Bay (playing as a Viking) the following season, but it would be tough for any game to top that one – it was the highest rated telecast in ESPN (and cable TV) history.

The second return will be that of Randy Moss, who becomes a Viking again, five years after he was traded away by the team that drafted him. Now he’s matched up with the type of deep-threat QB he never had before in the Metrodome and has become the possible saviour of the Vikes 2010 season. Fans are eager to see how he’ll respond against the vaunted Jets defence. (Almost as eager as Patriot fans will be to see him in Foxborough again in three weeks.)

But taking an interest in the “prodigal sons” is nothing new–and not just in football either. It’s one of the most reliable, attention-grabbing storylines in sports and a sure-fire ratings winner.

Favre faces Green Bay as member of the hated Vikings

It was bad enough that Favre refused to stay away after his tearful retirement from the Green Bay Packers, but did he have to join forces with their most hated rival? The Packers were humbled both times they played their traitorous former QB, but their Monday night contest in October 2009 was the most watched TV program, sports or otherwise, in the history of cable TV.

McNabb's Philly homecoming

Donovan McNabb's trade to division rival Washington was one of the offseason's biggest stories, which made his return to Philadelphia one of the season's most talked about games so far. Particularly so after Michael Vick emerged as his exciting and viable replacement. The game was a bit of dud (won by the Redskins after Vick was injured early) but McNabb, who had been booed by Eagles fans when they drafted him 12 years earlier, received a hearty welcome from the crowd.

Joe Montana shows Steve Young who's boss

Montana never got to play in San Francisco again after being let go by the team he won four Super Bowls with, but he didn't get one last parting shot at the man who replaced him. During his second season in Kansas City, the 49ers came calling at Arrowhead with Steve Young now at helm. Montana's Chiefs beat his old backup, 24-17.

Roger Clemens returns to Fenway

Former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette famously described Roger Clemens as being in the 'twilight' of his career when he let Clemens leave for Toronto as a free agent at the end of 1996. When he returned to Fenway as a Blue Jay the next season, Clemens gave up only two hits and struck out 16 Red Sox batters. (He also won four more Cy Young awards for other teams.)

Michael Jordan becomes a Wizard

In 2002, a January meeting between two lowly teams like the Bulls and Wizards would not have elicited much notice, but this was the first time Michael Jordan played in Chicago as a visitor. The game was a mess (he had nine turnovers in an ugly 77-69 Washington win), but the appreciative crowd gave him a emotional two-minute standing ovation before a nationally televised NBC audience.

Edmonton welcomes The Great One home

Wayne Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles is still one of the most discussed moments in hockey history, Almost as emotional was his return to the city as a member of an American team. All of Canada watched his first game back in an unfriendly uniform and the sold out crowd roared their appreciation for his every move, including two assists. They even gave him a statue in front of the arena he called home for eight years.

Shaq vs. Kobe, Round 1

In 2004, Shaquille O'Neal was traded from the Lakers to the Heat, severing a tense partnership with Kobe Bryant that had given L.A. three consecutive NBA titles. Naturally, their first game in L.A. as rivals received prime placement as the nationally televised Christmas Day game that year. Shaq fouled out, but the the Heat won in overtime of what turned out the highest-rated regular season game since the lockout of 1998. (The teams would meet on Christmas Day the next two years as well.)

It hasn't happened yet, but LeBron James is coming...

Even after leaving for other teams, most beloved players return to a hero's welcome--but LeBron James should not expect a warm reception when he returns to Cleveland on December 2. Regarded as a traitor by most of the city, he should prepare himself for unending verbal abuse ... but also perhaps the biggest audience any regular-season NBA game has ever received.

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