Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has decided to retire from the NFL, bringing an end to a career that will surely land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the team said on Sunday.
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Manning, who turns 40 later this month, will be going out on top after helping the Broncos to a Super Bowl upset victory last month over the Carolina Panthers, in a development first reported by ESPN.
"When you look at everything Peyton has accomplished as a player and person, it’s easy to see how fortunate we’ve been to have him on our team,” John Elway, Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, said in a statement.
“Peyton was everything that we thought he was and even more - not only for the football team but in the community. I’m very thankful Peyton chose to play for the Denver Broncos, and I congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career.”
Manning, who informed the Broncos of his decision on Saturday night, joins Elway as the only quarterbacks to retire after winning a Super Bowl. Elway stepped away from the game after claiming the 1998 title, his second in a row for Denver.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell paid tribute to Manning.
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"Peyton Manning's extraordinary career was driven by his talent, an incredible work ethic, and an unwavering desire to be the best and ended so perfectly for him with a Super Bowl victory," Goodell said in a statement.
"Peyton's competitive fire and love of the game made him a legendary player who thrilled fans for a generation. He has served as a great representative of the NFL both on the field and in his community."
Manning's decision came as the Broncos faced a Wednesday deadline in which Manning would be guaranteed a whopping $19 million from Denver for the 2016 National Football League season if he remained on the team's roster.
One of the most prolific passers ever in the NFL, Manning revolutionized the quarterback position during an 18-year career that included two Super Bowl titles, five most valuable player awards and a slew of passing records.
Manning came across as a laid back southern boy but on the gridiron he was a clinical, ruthless competitor with an off-the-charts football IQ who changed plays at the line of scrimmage to outsmart opposing defenses with his dead-on accuracy.
He played his final four seasons in Denver but his prime came during the 14 years he spent in Indianapolis where he led the Colts to two Super Bowls berths, winning the big game in the 2006 campaign.
"Few have left their marks on a sport as Peyton Manning has," Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement.
"Simply put, he revolutionized NFL football. Peyton energized it as had no one before him, he made it more fun for our fans, and made the game better."
In addition to his career yards and passing touchdowns records and the record five MVP awards, Manning's Super Bowl win gave him an NFL best 200 career wins including playoffs.
He also became the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
A foot injury hampered Manning for much of the 2015 campaign and he showed a distinct loss of throwing power.
But after his return from a six-game absence, he avoided mistakes and helped support the fierce Broncos defense during an improbable late run to the NFL title as the oldest quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl.
Denver head coach Gary Kubiak said the timing was pure Manning.
"After competing against Peyton many, many times, I already had great respect for him," said Kubiak. "But being with him this season, going through what we went through and accomplishing what we accomplished — that was special.
"He and I battled together and along the way we talked about dreaming that it could end the way it ended. And I’ll be damned, it did."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes and Larry Fine)