Fabrice Muamba waved to supporters as he returned to the Reebok Stadium for the first time since his cardiac arrest on Wednesday night.
The Bolton midfielder entered the field to a standing ovation as he was introduced ahead of Wanderers' Barclays Premier League game against Tottenham.
The 24-year-old has made a remarkable recovery since collapsing during the FA Cup tie between the same two teams at White Hart Lane on March 17.The former England Under-21 international was followed by a TV camera as he acknowledged the applause of fans while his fiancee Shauna Magunda took photographs.
Muamba arrived at the ground about an hour before kick-off and stopped to speak to TV reporters.
He told Sky Sports: "I wish I was playing today, obviously my circumstances are not helping at the moment but I'm sure the boys will go out and give their best today."
Muamba then went to take a seat to watch what was a vital match for Bolton in their battle against relegation.
Muamba's heart stopped beating for 78 minutes following his collapse and he spent a month at the London Chest Hospital before being discharged on April 16.
He started talking two days after his collapse and began walking just over a fortnight later, although it is not yet known if he will play professional football again.
Muamba added on 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 since his cardiac arrest, Muamba added: "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."
Muamba met with his team-mates and spent time with other familiar faces at the stadium.
Coyle said: "He has been in the players' lounge and managed to see them all. There were smiles on their faces at how well he is doing.
"He is not just a team-mate, he is a close friend because of the character and personality he is.
"All the staff also got to see him, and it was pleasing in that respect."
Coyle admitted it was too soon to say if Muamba could ever play football again.
He 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."