MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Minnesota dentist is drawing some support as he returns to work for the first time since he sparked an international outcry by killing a beloved African lion.

Walter Palmer returned Tuesday to his dental practice in suburban Minneapolis. He told The Associated Press on Sunday that his patients and staff want him to return and insisted he did nothing illegal in the killing of the lion known as Cecil.

Demonstrators gather outside the dental practice of Walter Palmer, who returned to his practice (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

Among those showing up for appointments on Palmer's first day back was Thomas Dressel.

Dressel's wife is a longtime patient but Dressel himself was a first-time visitor. He said he trusts Palmer's account of the hunt and sympathizes with the loss of business since Cecil's death. Dressel, a retired doctor, also said he wanted to offer a fellow medical professional some support.

A small group of protesters is picketing Palmer's clinic.

In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune, Palmer said he feels safe enough to return to work Tuesday. He said his staff and patients want him back.

Palmer says he believes he acted legally and was stunned to learn his hunting party had killed a treasured animal.

Cecil was a fixture in the Hwange National Park and had a GPS collar as part of Oxford University research.

(© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed)