Craig Carton sits in the newly redesigned studio for the...

Craig Carton sits in the newly redesigned studio for the Carlton and Roberts simulcast at SNY on May 24, 2021. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Craig Carton had one professional concern above all others when he returned to WFAN in 2020 after three years away — one of which he spent in prison.

“My single biggest fear was, I could do the greatest radio show I’ve ever done, but does anybody want to hear it?” Carton told Newsday on Friday in a telephone interview en route to his final show at the station.

“Are they willing to listen to it? Are they willing to view me in the same way they viewed me before I got in trouble? In pretty quick order, we learned that the audience was there.”

Carton and his new partner, Evan Roberts, quickly became a hit in the ratings.

“I do take great pride in that, that I was able to do it in morning drive and then do it again in afternoon drive at such a special radio station in New York City,” Carton said.

After nine months of working two jobs — mornings on FS1 and afternoons on WFAN — Carton opted to stick with the former and give up the latter for the sake of a saner lifestyle and quality time with his family, including four children ages 12 to 22.

His recent schedule was unsustainable, but leaving WFAN still was an emotional decision.

“While I’m really excited and looking forward to the opportunity at Fox and doing that exclusively, truth be told, the FAN is my home, and has been for 13 out of the last 16 years,” he said.

“I’m very well aware that without WFAN extending me the opportunity to come back once I was released [from prison] and trying to restart a life both personally and professionally, that nothing else would have happened.

“So I guess I’m really just being nostalgic about my time at WFAN and the experiences I had there and how special the radio station has been to me and, frankly, how good it’s been to me.”

Carton credited in particular Chris Oliviero, an executive at Audacy, WFAN’s parent company, for having the faith to bring him back after he was arrested in 2017 on federal fraud charges — ending his 10-year run on the morning show.

Would Carton have made a different decision if WFAN had matched the salary FS1 was able and willing to pay him?

“It’s hard to answer that question, because that’s not what I was faced with,” he said. “Listen, leaving FAN is obviously difficult for me to do. It was just kind of the planets aligned in a manner where it seemed like if I was ever going to do it on my own accord, this was the right time and the right place to do it.”

Boomer Esiason, Jerry Recco and Al Dukes, Carton’s former morning show colleagues, called in to the final show, as did his morning successor, Gregg Giannotti, and his former radio colleague, Sid Rosenberg.

So did former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Yankees and Mets pitcher Al Leiter and Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said: “It’s nice to have so many good options you just can’t decide where you want to lay your head. All these things to choose from. Must be nice.”

Said Esiason: “It was great to have you back and now it’s bad to lose you. We hate losing you.”

WFAN’s new show featuring Roberts and Tiki Barber will debut on July 24.

Carton closed Friday’s show by thanking his colleagues and listeners for giving him a second chance.

In the Newsday interview, he said: “I just look forward to being able to have some level of a normal life, because I certainly spent enough years not living a normal life.

“So just the ability to have a routine that allows me to be home and eat dinner with my family and see my kids and have some time to breathe, I am looking forward to that, for sure.”

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