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Tom Brady returns to New England: How other sports stars have fared when facing former teams

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It will be an emotional and momentous occasion on Sunday night when Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returns to New England for the first time to face the Patriots – a team he led to six Super Bowl titles.

How will Brady be received by the crowd in Foxborough? Will he deliver a signature Brady performance? Or will the home fans have the last laugh?

Brady won't be the first hometown hero to lead his original team to a championship (or more than one), then have a high-profile return later in his career. Here's how some other sports superstars' homecomings turned out.

Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988, in a deal that sent shock waves throughout Canada.
Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988, in a deal that sent shock waves throughout Canada.

Wayne Gretzky returns to Edmonton

From almost the instant he joined the NHL as a 19-year-old with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979, Wayne Gretzky dominated the league. He won eight consecutive scoring titles and eight consecutive Hart Trophies as the league's MVP.

He also led the Oilers to unprecedented success as a team, winning four Stanley Cups in five years. But in perhaps trying to get ahead of the Great One leaving as a free agent, the Oilers traded him to the Los Angeles Kings before the 1988-89 season.

On Oct. 19, 1988, 10 weeks after the trade became official, Gretzky made his return to Edmonton in a Kings sweater, going head-to-head with many of his former teammates. Before the national anthems, when the Kings took the ice, the fans gave Gretzky a nearly four-minute standing ovation. Despite Gretzky's two assists, the Kings lost to the defending champion Oilers 8-6.

Albert Pujols returns to St. Louis

Angels DH Albert Pujols receives a standing ovation before his first at-bat in St. Louis as a visiting player on June 21, 2019.
Angels DH Albert Pujols receives a standing ovation before his first at-bat in St. Louis as a visiting player on June 21, 2019.

Pujols was the best hitter in baseball over the first seven years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning three NL MVP awards, one batting title and two World Series rings.

He left St. Louis as a free agent at the end of the 2011 season, signing a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Because the Angels play in the American League, his first interleague game against the Cardinals didn't come until 2019. By then, Pujols was no longer the feared slugger he was when he left. But he was still beloved in St. Louis.

On June 21, 2019, Pujols stepped into the batter's box at Busch Stadium to a lengthy standing ovation. He went 1-for-2 with a walk. The following night, he hit a solo home run in a losing effort.

LeBron James returns to Cleveland

LeBron James takes a deep breath before attempting a free throw in his return to Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2010.
LeBron James takes a deep breath before attempting a free throw in his return to Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2010.

A native of nearby Akron, LeBron James was the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft. His primary goal, he said upon arriving, was to lead Cleveland to its first-ever NBA championship.

Despite six All-Star appearances and an NBA scoring title in his first seven years, James failed to deliver. The Cavs made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, getting as far as the NBA Finals in 2007.

A free agent in 2010, James famously decided to "take my talents to South Beach" and join the Miami Heat. On Dec. 2, 2010, he came back to Quicken Loans Arena to a deafening chorus of boos and taunts. Fans chanted “Akron hates you,” “No Ring King,” and “Traitor, Traitor,” among other things.

James was spectacular, as usual, scoring 38 points in leading the Heat to an easy 118-90 win. (The two sides made peace five years later when James rejoined the Cavs and finally took them to a title in 2016.)

Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning waves to the crowd as he is honored on the field before the game in his return to Indianapolis on Oct. 20, 2013.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning waves to the crowd as he is honored on the field before the game in his return to Indianapolis on Oct. 20, 2013.

After an All-America career at Tennessee, Manning was the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the lowly Indianapolis Colts. He quickly turned things around.

Over an eight-year stretch from 2003 to 2010, the Colts won seven division titles, with Manning taking them all the way to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears after the 2006 season.

However, the four-time NFL MVP suffered a serious neck injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. And the following year, the Colts selected Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the draft.

Manning was traded to Denver – and in his second year there led a 6-0 Broncos team into Lucas Oil Stadium to a sustained ovation from the fans. The 37-year-old Manning was in the midst of the best season of his career (he would go on to win a fifth MVP), but he couldn't rally the Broncos to victory that Sunday night, eventually losing 39-33.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Brady returns: How Peyton Manning, other stars did in homecomings