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Leno: ‘Not my decision’ to leave Tonight show

Jay Leno will step down from The Tonight Show on February 6. But to hear him talk to 60 Minutes” Steve Kroft, he’s about as ready to leave this time as he was when he left the show in 2009.

The CBS newsmagazine will be profiling Leno on Sunday, and based on the preview clips, it appears the outgoing host of The Tonight Show still isn’t quite ready to retire.

“It’s not my decision,” Leno tells Kroft. “I think I probably would have stayed if we didn’t have an extremely qualified, young guy ready to jump in.”

The young guy he’s referring to is, of course, Jimmy Fallon, who will assume the reins of the show on February 17.

In the interview, Leno praises Fallon, calling him “more like Johnny [Carson] than anybody since.”

He goes on to say that NBC going with Fallon makes sense to him. “Go with the new guy,” he says.

However, the precedent everyone can’t help but recall is when Leno was pushed from the show in 2009 and replaced with Conan O’Brien, but returned to the show in 2010.

Leno tells 60 Minutes he was “blindsided” by NBC executives when they asked him to leave the show the first time. And he says he doesn’t understand why he’s been portrayed as a bad guy after O’Brien was pushed off the show.

“I didn’t quite understand that, but I never chose to answer any of those things or make fun of any other people involved,” Leno said. “It’s not my way.”