Andy Cole gave an emotional acceptance speech after being inducted into the Newcastle United Foundation's Hall of Fame.
Cole was back on Tyneside last night for the Foundation's 10 Year Anniversary Dinner at St James's Park.
The former Newcastle striker was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Fairs Cup-winning defender Frank Clark.
Cole was controversially sold to Manchester United in January 1995 after two free-scoring years at St James's Park.
And the 47-year-old says he never had the chance to say goodbye to fans because of the nature of his departure.
Speaking at the dinner, Cole said: "When you're playing football and doing your job you don't appreciate how much joy you do give people. Then when you retire you look back and people start saying nice things about you.
"The support and love I've had at this place since I've come back is phenomenal.
"I never had the opportunity to say goodbye when I left, because it was done in the circumstances that it was. Everyone was upset with me and calling me every name under the sun!
"But I genuinely want to say thank you very much for having me. I know it wasn't very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time."
Cole was signed by Kevin Keegan in February 1993 as the club pushed for promotion to the Premier League.
Reflecting on his time at Newcastle, Cole said: "I think getting promoted with Newcastle and getting to the Premier League was massive.
"Everyone keeps saying I got them up, but the hard work was already done. I got 12 in 12, and then the Premier League was phenomenal. I didn't know what to expect, my team-mates didn't know what to expect, but it was a fantastic season for us.
"I'm going to be brutally honest. Without my team-mates, I'm nothing."
Cole had a living-saving kidney transplant earlier this year.