What does it mean when a guy says, “you’re a special person”?

A friend (28M) sent me a random message after years of not talking to each other. It was an apology letter because he thought I was mad at him. Here’s the last part of the message:

I hope you're not mad at me but if you are, I totally understand. Regardless, you're a special person and I hope today is special and all about you. 

This last part of the message really sticks out when he said I was a “special person”. Does that imply anything? Is it common for guys to tell friends this?

Brief Backstory:
He thought I was mad at him because I stopped talking to him all of a sudden 2 years before I got this message. I never told him why. It’s strange because we actually didn’t talk so much after he moved away to another country. Just a couple short messages over social media, 1 or 2 conversations over a span of 2 years. That’s honestly it. We only became friends 8 months before he moved away so it’s not like we were super close. We did talk & hang out pretty often when we first became friends.

I know that he liked me way back when we first started hanging out & be friends. It’s been 6 1/2 years since then though. He found a girlfriend soon after he moved by the way & they are still together.

I’d really appreciate insight because it’s been bugging me for years. I can’t help but feel that he still has feelings for me. I don’t want to end the friendship unless I really have to. I don't know if I should ask him upfront because we’re both in relationships with other people.
What does it mean when a guy says, “you’re a special person”?
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