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Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show' Return Rates With Viewers

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NEW YORK — Jay Leno got a warm welcome from viewers with his return to late night on Monday.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" led the 11:35 p.m. Eastern time slot with 6.6 million viewers, beating ABC rival "Nightline," which had 4.1 million viewers, and CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman," which had 3.8 million viewers, according to the Nielsen Co.

Then many of Leno's viewers stuck with NBC, giving "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" a 2.1 million win against its 12:35 a.m. competitor on CBS, "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," which had 1.8 million viewers.

After 17 years, Leno left "Tonight" last May in the hands of former "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien.

O'Brien's early ratings on "Tonight" were strong. But he couldn't hang onto the audience that Leno had typically attracted, leading to his exit in January. In the meantime, Leno starred in a weeknight NBC prime-time hour that was canceled for low ratings, with his reinstatement as "Tonight Show" host swiftly following.

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