Police later fired tear gas at people supporting Zelaya who had walked to within 10km of the border, in defiance of a curfew.
'Entitled to return'
Zelaya told Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez at the Honduras-Nicaragua border that his attempt to return home had been made in the best interests of his country.
"I want to get to where I have the right to - where I am entitled to. The people elected me and in administering this position I am not doing it for myself," he said.
"That the military brass does not let the president exericse his office is a humiliation for the people.
"I went past the chain that separates Nicaragua and Honduras. I want to establish contact and engage in a dialogue with the [interim government].
"There has been a 27-day state of siege in Honduras and we must defend democracy."
Sanchez said that while Zelaya's brief return to Honduran was a key moment in the power crisis, it may not achieve much in terms of advancing a lasting political solution.
"[Zelaya] stepped into Honduran territory, but is this just a metaphor? The significant thing would be if he went all the way to Tegucigalpa, the capital," she said.
"Zelaya is showing his supporters that he is here, and that he is close to them. I think he will stay at the border for some time; his wife is coming to meet him and it is very difficult to get through the checkpoints to the border [in Honduras]."
"I want to establish contact and engage in a dialogue with the [interim government] ... There has been a 27-day state of siege in Honduras and we must defend democracy"
Manuel Zelaya, deposed president of Honduras
The US secretary of state criticised Zelaya's move to enter Honduras, saying that it undermined efforts to reach a negotiated solution on the issue of his return home.
"President Zelaya's effort to reach the border is reckless," Hillary Clinton said in Washington, during a press conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the visiting Iraqi prime minister.
"It does not contribute to the broader effort to restore democracy and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis," she said.
But a summit of South American leaders at the Mercosur trade bloc said on Friday that they will not recognise the interim Honduran regime.
Mercosur members "reiterate their energetic condemnation of the coup d'etat against the constitutional government of Honduras" and Zelaya's forced exile, they said in a joint statement.
The group "would not recognise any government that resulted from a rupture in constitutional order" in Honduras, and "would not accept as valid unilateral acts coming from the illegitimate Honduran authorities, including the call for elections."
|Honduran troops kept Zelaya supporters
away from the frontier [EPA]
Zelaya's brief return to Honduras comes after crisis talks mediated by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica between Zelaya and the interim government collapsed.
An attempt on July 5 by the deposed president to return to Honduras by air failed when the interim government instructed the military to block the runway at the airport in Tegucigalpa.
Zelaya was forced into exile by the military as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum that critics said was aimed at changing the constitution to enable him to run again for office.
Zelaya had said that changes to the charter were necessary to improve the lives of the poor.