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Peyton returns "home"

Sunday, Peyton Manning makes his first return to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the first time since being released by the Colts two years ago – this time as a member of the visiting team.
Peyton returns "home"
Photo Credit: AP/http://communities.washingtontimes.com/

Manning was the first overall pick by the Colts out of the University of Tennessee in the 1998 draft. From 1998-2010, he led the Colts to eight division championships, two conference championships and one Super Bowl victory.

He has won a record four MVP awards, was the MVP of Super Bowl XLI and has been named to 12 Pro Bowls. He passed for 4,000 yards 12 times with the Colts and is the team’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.

But in 2011, he had to undergo neck surgery and missed the entire season following it. The Colts drafted Andrew Luck out of Stanford and tabbed him as Manning’s successor. Manning was then released by the team.

Despite missing a season due to the neck injury, teams scrambled to sign Manning and he ended up with the Denver Broncos. In his first season in the mile-high city, he led the Broncos to playoffs, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the playoffs.

So far in 2013, Manning has shown the brilliance that has made him a superstar. He passed for an NFL-record 12 touchdowns in his team’s first three games and didn’t throw an interception until Week 5.

But now, Manning travels to familiar territory, his old stomping grounds of Indianapolis. He will likely be cheered by the fans there as he never really got to say goodbye following his release after missing a season due to injury.

Manning is downplaying the “return to Indy” hype and focusing on the game at hand, which is a big one for the Broncos. Denver is undefeated at 6-0 while the Colts are 4-2.

Despite the undefeated record, the Broncos are tied for first place in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs, who are also 6-0.

While the return has already provided a bit of drama with Colts’ owner Jim Irsay commenting about Manning’s playoff struggles as a Colt and Denver coach John Fox firing back a defense of his star signal caller.

Expect Manning to approach the game as he always does, with a business-like demeanor and a desire to win.

The Broncos’ have rolled through this season, their biggest challenge so far coming against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago when  the teams went to overtime before finally winning. Last week, the Colts were heavy favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars but weren’t able to pull away until the second half.

 He will go up against Luck, who is having a solid season himself, leading the Colts to wins in four of their first six games.

The story lines are plentiful – Manning quieting his critics, specifically Irsay; his matchup against his replacement, Luck; the reaction from the Indy fans who never got a chance to thank the quarterback that gave them many reasons to cheer.

But for Manning, the only storyline he cares about is improving to 7-0 and continuing the team’s perfect season through the second half of the season, into the playoffs and beyond.

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