By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady returned to Gillette Stadium on Sunday and escaped with a 19-17 win over the Patriots. It was an emotionally exhausting night after an emotionally exhausting week for the Buccaneers quarterback, and he was happy when it was finally over.

Facing the team that he spent 20 years with — and led to six Super Bowl titles — was not a very fun experience for Brady. The Patriots defense made life difficult for the quarterback on Sunday night, and through all the hype leading up to the game, he was worried about what was ahead when he returned to New England.

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To say that Brady was relieved when the game ended would be an understatement. Surprisingly, his favorite part of Sunday night was not that he walked off the field with a win. The highlight of the unique experience was that he got to see so many of the old friends that he spent so much time with during his run with the Patriots.

“I got to see some people after the game that I just love so much. The best part of the night was having the game over and seeing them, and understanding that no matter how we compete, my relationship with those people transcends wins and losses,” Brady said on his “Let’s Go!” podcast on Sirius XM. “And, yeah we want to win, absolutely. I think the process of trying to win is what’s most important. Winning and losing is icing on the cake, and for the winner. What you have to do as an athlete is you have to put as much as you can into it.”

Brady said it was those postgame interactions — “the hugs, the handshakes, the congratulatory messages” — are what continues to motivate him. But he also admitted that seeing his former teammates as foes on the field was not a fun experience.

“It’s nothing I prefer to do. It’s not as enjoyable as some people would think,” he said. “I look over and I think about Matt Slater out there, and I look at Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty, and I look at David Andrews and Shaq Mason. Just some amazing people that I’ve gone to war with. The reality is, in sports, sometimes you go different places and now you’re on the other side of it and on the other sideline. You want those guys to do so well because you know how important it is to them. You know how much it means to them.”

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Brady was later asked which team he likes beating the most, and it was an easy answer for obvious reasons: The New York Giants. But it was even easier to answer which team he liked beating the least.

“The team I like to beat the least is obviously the Patriots. Again, those are my guys,” he said. “Those are the other warriors that I went to battle with for so long. I’ve had a lot of battles over the years with different teams, there’s a lot of mutual respect in pro sports, but glad I’m through with the one last night.”

After Sunday’s win, Brady was finally able to meet face-to-face with his former head coach, Bill Belichick. He explained Monday morning to NBC Sports’ Peter King that Belichick was out of town when Brady decided to leave New England in free agency in 2019, and that the COVID-19 pandemic kept them from chatting in person until Sunday night.

The two met for over 20 minutes in the Buccaneers locker room in Gillette Stadium, and Brady said it was a great way to end his return to New England.

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“It was nice to catch up and exchange just some different thoughts that we had been having,” Brady said. “And it was a good way to end the night for both of us.”

CBSBoston.com Staff