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Just how much are tickets to see Tom Brady? Inside the money surrounding Sunday’s game

Tom Brady last played at Gillette Stadium in January 2020. He returns Sunday night.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The torrent of money and fame that has accompanied Tom Brady’s transcendent career this century reaches a crescendo Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Beyond being a salivating sports showdown, the Patriots-Buccaneers game is a financial bonanza, triggering a surge in ticket prices, viewership, merchandise sales, and betting action never before seen in the fabled and rich history of Boston sports.

“Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Bobby Orr aren’t walking through that door, but on Sunday, Tom Brady is,” said Jim Holzman, owner of Ace Ticket. “What would you pay to see Babe Ruth play at Fenway tomorrow?”

As of Tuesday, ticket prices for the game were as high as $4,750 each on Ace, with a “cheap” seat available for $475; the average ticket was priced at $1,640, making it the most expensive regular-season game in Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins history, according to Ace records.

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How much would you pay to see Tom Brady's return to Gillette?Steve Luciano/Associated Press

The highest priced tickets Ace has sold so far were four seats on the 50-yard line behind the Buccaneers’ bench for $5,750 apiece.

Only one playoff game — Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, when the Bruins lost to the Blackhawks, at $2,008 — has topped the Brady game, with five days on the secondary market still to go. The current price for Patriots-Buccaneers would top the last time the Red Sox clinched a championship at Fenway Park ($1,445 for Game 6 of the 2013 World Series) and when the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008 ($1,505).

There has never been a Super Bowl game played in New England, so a fair comparison to another Patriots playoff game can’t be made. But considering the record of average ticket prices for any Patriots game was $686 for the Cowboys’ visit two years ago and the average ticket price for a Patriots game over the past few years has been around $250, the magnitude of this game stands out.

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What’s driving that has everything to do with Brady’s long — and now complicated — history with New England fans, Holzman said.

“This is somebody we thought we’d never see again, and schedule-wise, we’re seeing him, so it’s combined with the situation where we never got to say goodbye and thank you and there’s a lot of people who wish they had the chance to say that,” said Holzman. “Now they have that opportunity.”

Many fans are willing to pay top dollar for Sunday's contest.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Being one of 65,878 fans at Gillette is an experience that won’t be shared by the vast majority of Patriots fans, who will be tuning in to the national TV broadcast on NBC.

Chris Wayland, general manager of Boston’s NBC-owned NBC 10 as well as the three other NBC Universal local businesses, compared the impact to the ultimate NFL standard.

“Wow, we’re basically getting two Super Bowls in one season — one with this game and then we get the other one in February on NBC,” Wayland said of his initial reaction to hearing the Brady game would air on NBC. “We were thrilled, obviously, for every reason.”

NBC 10 has the opportunity to sell approximately a dozen local commercials spread out over pregame, in-game, and postgame coverage. With a rate that likely will be three times any other regular-season game, NBC 10 will reap an unprecedented in-season bonus.

“It will be a huge revenue opportunity for us,” said Wayland. “In terms of revenue impact locally to us, it will have a similar impact that a Super Bowl game would have for us — which is amazing.”

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Wayland declined to specify dollar figures, but one industry insider estimated an average local 30-second TV spot for such a game would sell for $50,000 to $60,000, with the price dropping to around $10,000 for a game without the Patriots.

Nationally, those spots will sell for between $750,000 and $1 million.

Digital advertising on NBC websites also is growing, with NBC flooding its websites with video and articles on Brady as often as possible. Wayland expects the digital numbers “will probably be the highest impression levels (i.e. clicks) maybe we’ve ever seen.”

“The game is driving new advertisers for the limited TV spots, as those companies are coming forward to take advantage of this audience,” said Wayland.

The audience is expected to be immense, said Wayland, approaching Super Bowl viewership numbers. According to CBS and Nielsen, the Buccaneers’ victory over the Chiefs in the most recent Super Bowl drew 96.4 million viewers across all platforms.

“We anticipate here in Boston, because of the enormity of the game, probably not exactly Super Bowl- type numbers but probably a non-Patriots Super Bowl number,” said Wayland. “This will be by far the highest-rated Patriots non-Super Bowl game maybe ever. That would be my guess.”

Fanatics, the NFL’s official e-commerce partner, did not project the impact the Brady game will have on merchandise sales. But it noted that since the start of the regular season, Brady, followed by Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, were the two top-selling players among all sports leagues for all product categories, including jerseys, T-shirts, and memorabilia. After Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, Boston ranks as Brady’s third-best-selling market.

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Not surprisingly, Brady’s own business empire is taking advantage of the opportunity.

His TB12 brand is offering a $35 white T-shirt heralding “The Return.” With “QB” and the “TB12″ logo hovering over a large blue “12″ on the front, and “Brady” over the “12″ on the back, the shirt also features gray stenciling on the inside saying “The Return, TB x NE 10/3.″

While sports betting is not legal in Massachusetts, in the 26 states and Washington, D.C. where it is allowed, the game is expected to generate the biggest handle (total money bet) of any game in this young season.

Sunday's game is expected to draw huge action in Las Vegas.John Locher/Associated Press

“For sure, all of the narrative, all of the hype around it definitely drives betting dollars into the game,” said John Sheeran, director of risk and trading at FanDuel.

According to GeoComply, a company that tracks sports bettors, during Week 1 of this NFL season, 58.2 million legal bets were placed, a 126 percent increase from Week 1 a year ago. In a recent SportsHandle article, one expert estimated approximately $350 million is wagered every week of an NFL season.

As of late Tuesday morning, FanDuel had taken close to 3,000 bets on the game, with the Patriots 6½-point underdogs, and “that’s a lot of bets for a Tuesday morning,” said Sheeran.

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More than 2,850 of those bets were placed on the Buccaneers, “a huge, huge percentage that I doubt will change,” he said. “People tend to bet more with their head than their heart when it comes to these games, and I would be surprised if a lot of Patriots fans haven’t bet on Brady and the Buccaneers already.”


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.