But some protesters continued to confront the troops and our cameraman witnessed at least one soldier pointing his weapon directly at the protesters and at least one person going down after being shot.
Honduran emergency services confirmed that a child had been killed and a Red Cross spokesman said it was treating about 30 people for injuries.
Security forces also fired tear gas to disperse the tens of thousands of protesters and later closed the airport.
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera's Latin America editor, said Sunday's bloodshed could be a turning point for the military-backed interim government, who had been boasting for days that the coup against Zelaya had been bloodless.
Now that there had had been bloodshed, a lot of people were probably thinking that things were getting much messier than they had bargained for and support for the coup may begin to ebb, she said.
After the clashes, the government announced that a nightly curfew in place since the coup a week ago would be brought forward by three hours on Sunday.
Supporters who had been anticipating Zelaya's return at the airport left to get home before the curfew to avoid confrontation with security forces on the streets.
Supporters Al Jazeera spoke to appeared sanguine about their leader not managing to land in Honduras on Sunday and vowed to return on Monday as they expected him to try again.
The Honduran military thwarted Zelaya's attempt to fly back to the country on Sunday by blocking his plane from landing.
The pilot of Zelaya's plane flew low and circled around Tegucigalpa airport but decided that landing was "totally impossible" because military aircraft were in his way and soldiers and military vehicles were blocking the runway, Zelaya told Venezuelan network Telesur from his plane.
The ousted leader diverted his flight to land in Nicaragua instead but vowed to make another attempt at returning on Monday or Tuesday.
The military-backed interim government, which has resisted growing international pressure to reinstate Zelaya, refused him permission to enter the country, warning that he would be arrested for 18 alleged criminal acts, including treason and failing to implement more than 80 laws approved by congress since taking office in 2006.
Colin Harding, a Latin America analyst in London, said Zelaya was "hoping to force a showdown" by trying to return to Honduras.
"I think he wants to provoke the interim regime in Honduras into trying to arrest him. I think there is a certain sort of martyrdom attitude in the air," he told Al Jazeera.
|The army blocked the runway to prevent Zelaya's plane from landing [Reuters]
"It's possible that we've got brinkmanship here, which will lead to some sort of compromise, which may conceivably allow Zelaya to return at a later date, to bring forward the election date to save the face of both sides."
Zelaya, who was forced from power on June 28, had vowed to return to Honduras on Sunday.
"As president I will go to rejoin my people, ask for peace and not violence, and try to resolve everything in an atmosphere of brotherhood," he had said as his plane headed off from Washington DC.
Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum that his domestic critics said was aimed at changing the constitution to enable him to run again for office.
As tensions rose on Sunday, leaders of the interim government gave a televised news conference and called for dialogue with the OAS.
"The Republic of Honduras has communicated to the representative of the OAS in Tegucigalpa that it is willing, with the aim of conducting conversations in good faith with a mission of representatives of the secretary general," Martha Lorena Alvarado, the interim deputy foreign minister, said.
The OAS, a hemispheric bloc dedicated to strengthening political co-operation and reforms, suspended Honduras's membership of the body on Saturday.
|Security forces fired tear gas to disperse Zelaya supporters at the airport [AFP]
Meanwhile, Roberto Micheletti, who was sworn in as president after the coup, told the news conference that the Nicaraguan military was moving towards their shared border.
"We have been informed that in the sector of Nicaragua some troops are moving toward the border," he said.
"I would like, respectfully to ask our Nicaraguan brothers not to cross our borders as we are gong to defend them."
A Nicaraguan army spokesman said that the Honduran accusations were "totally false".
Francisco Dominguez, the head of the centre of Brazilian and Latin American studies at Middlesex University in the UK, said he did not believe that there was any basis to the claims that the Nicaraguan military could become involved.
"I think it is a very desperate manoeuvre to divert attention from the crisis they are in the middle of," he told Al Jazeera. "I have never seen a regime so isolated as this one."