Jay Leno's late-night return outdraws Letterman

lindsey-vonn-jay-leno-320.jpg Jay Leno's first night back as host of "The Tonight Show" was a good one ratings-wise, but no one is proclaiming him the "returning king of late night" just yet.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" scored a 6.6 million viewers, according to fast national numbers from Nielsen, and a 1.6 rating in adults 18-49. Those numbers gave him a healthy lead over ABC's "Nightline" (4.1 million, 1.3) and CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" (3.8 million, 1.1).

Monday's show also did better than Leno's "Tonight Show" average from the first quarter of 2009 (and his prime-time show; see below) -- though not as well as Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" debut last June, which drew a 9.2 million viewers.

NBC is no doubt pleased that Leno's fans appear to be following him back to late night. It has, however, so far refrained from issuing a press release crowing about the numbers the way it did in June, when the network dubbed O'Brien "the new king of late night" after just one week.

The show that moved into Leno's vacated 10 p.m. spot on Monday, "Law & Order," gave NBC a bump there as well. It drew 7.9 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in the demo, up from "The Jay Leno Show's" Monday averages of 5.7 million and 1.6.

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Photo credit: NBC