Keith Olbermann

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann wanted to make one thing clear when he returned to the air after a brief suspension for making political donations: It was not a publicity stunt.

"Of course, if I had known that all of this would happen, I would have done this years ago!" he joked on Tuesday's Countdown.

Keith Olbermann to return from suspension Tuesday

The host was suspended Friday after Politico first reported his donations. Olbermann acknowledged Friday to making contributions of $2,400 — the maximum legal donation — to two members of Congress from Arizona, Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords, and failed Kentucky senatorial candidate Jack Conway prior to the election.

NBC News policy allows employees to make political donations as long as they receive the proper approval from the network news president. Olbermann failed to get such approval before he made his donations.

"It's not a stupid rule, here or anywhere else," Olbermann said Tuesday. "There just needs to be a debate about it and it needs to be adapted to the realities of 21st Century journalism."

MSNBC suspends Keith Olbermann indefinitely for campaign contributions

Making his suspension Countdown's No. 1 story, Olbermann apologized to viewers for "subjecting you to this unnecessary drama," for not knowing NBC News' donation rule — because he says it's not in his contract — and for not disclosing his donations earlier.

Olbermann also aired jokes from Jay Leno and Jon Stewart, and said he wished he could individually thank the thousands who signed his online reinstatement petition.

"And all I can seriously say is, I'm stunned and grateful, and it still feels like a universal hug," he said.

Watch Olbermann's first night back below: