Sugar Ray Leonard, dethroned Friday night as World Boxing Council welterweight champion, returned home yesterday to a supportive, well-wishing throng which gathered to meet his flight arriving at National Airport from Montreal.

About 500 Leonard fans, including many family members, waited anxiously for their hero from Palmer Park.

Probably the most anxious was the fighter's sister Sandy, who didn't attend the fight because "I couldn't find a baby-sitter."

"I watched the fight at Capital Centre just like all those other people," said Sandy Leonard, sporting the now-famous smile. "Win or lose, I'm very proud of my brother."

She added that she thought her brother was robbed of the decision by the judges, who awarded the title to Panama's Roberta Duran in a unanimous, but controversial, decision.

Sandy Leonard was becoming impatient, straining her neck to look down the long airport corridor when it was announced that "Flight 659 had arrived from Montreal and passengers will be arriving at the terminal in four minutes."

The very first passenger down the corridor was the former champion, Leonard, head up, smile flashing, hand waving. Sugar Ray Leonard, dressed in a beige designer shirt, blue necktie and tan slacks, greeted his sister and other family members and friends.

Before being whisked away by security police, Leonard addressed questions about a rematch with Duran. "I'm quite sure there will be a rematch, but right now I just don't know when; right now I feel find," he said, apparently not bothered by a cut over the left eye.

On that note, Leonard and his sister drove off in a black Mercedes to the chants of "Sugar -- Sugar -- Sugar."