Carlos Tevez made his first appearance in a Manchester City shirt for five months on Tuesday in a reserve match played behind closed doors.
The 28-year-old striker has not turned out for City since refusing to warm up as a substitute in a Champions League match at Bayern Munich in September.
But Tevez played the first half of the 3-1 defeat by Preston before being replaced.
Manager Roberto Mancini was not present to witness Tevez's return.
Tevez spent over three months in his native Argentina after City vowed he would never play for the club again.
But he has since apologised and could make a first-team return before the end of the season as Mancini's Premier League leaders look to secure the title.
The reserve fixture was to have been held at nearby non-league side Chorley FC on Wednesday but was brought forward a day. It was staged privately at City's training ground.
Club ambassador and former City player Patrick Vieira witnessed Tevez's first match in a City shirt since the 2-0 Carling Cup victory over Birmingham on 21 September.
Without Tevez, City have utilised the skills of Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko in different combinations up front.
The trio have scored 39 goals between them this term and all were on target in Saturday's 3-0 home victory against Blackburn.
In their quest to capture the league title for the first time since 1968, Mancini's team lead Tevez's former club Manchester United by two points with 12 matches remaining.
City coach David Platt told the Manchester Evening News having Tevez back would create healthy competition for the forwards.
"The strikers have all had a threat to their place all season," the former England international explained. "I don't think there's been one occasion when all three have been on the pitch at one time so there is a threat to their places anyway, just as there is a threat to everybody else's place in the team.
"When we've everybody healthy there are people going in the stand that could get into most teams in the Premier League, and we have a rotation of the squad.
"As and when Carlos is back, he'll add another number to that."