The international centre made his only previous appearance of the season in the Round 3 match against Newcastle at Welford Road back in September and returned in Round 16 after surgery to repair a chest muscle injury.
He played 70 minutes at Kingston Park in a 41-18 victory, until his afternoon was cut short by a yellow card awarded by referee Greg Garner for a deliberate knock-on.
“I was excited to be back and I wanted to play the whole game,” said Tuilagi.
“This week Richard Cockerill said just go as long as you can and I felt pretty good with all the training I’ve been doing.
“I was nervous before the game and just wanted to get out there and get a feel of the game again. I got in straight away in defence but it took a while to get the ball in my hands. But it felt good to be back and we got the five points and that’s what we needed.”
Vereniki Goneva (2), Thomas Waldrom and Pablo Matera scored the tries as Tigers moved level on points with third-placed Bath with victory at Newcastle.
“We’re in the right place and now we just need to push on,” said Tuilagi who will train with the England squad this week as they prepare for the final two matches of the Six Nations season.