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Peyton Manning to retire after 18 seasons

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw a pass during the AFC Championship game in January.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File 2016/Globe Staff

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning surveyed the landscape of his brilliant career and called one last audible. He’s retiring a champion.

A month after Denver’s triumph in Super Bowl 50, Manning informed John Elway he’s going to follow his lead and ride off into that orange sunset just like the Broncos’ boss did 17 years ago after winning his second Super Bowl.

Manning hinted at retirement throughout the 2015 season, including in a conversation with Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship game in January.

Asked in January if this was his last playoff run, Manning said: “I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about that.”


The Broncos scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Monday.

Just shy of 40, Manning will forgo $19 million and a 19th season in the NFL, where he served as both a throwback and a transformer during a career bookmarked by five MVP awards and dozens of passing records.

‘‘Peyton was a player that guys wanted to play with,’’ Elway said. ‘‘That made us better as a team and I'm thrilled that we were able to win a championship in his final year.’’

Manning leaves the league he helped popularize to supersize status as its all-time leading passer and winningest starting quarterback, the only one in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two franchises.

His first came in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. The Colts gave up on him after a series of neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of the 2011 season and left him without feeling in the fingertips of his right hand.

A rare superstar quarterback on the open market in 2012, Manning resettled in Denver, where, despite a right arm weakened by nerve damage, he went 50-15 with his fifth MVP award and two trips to the Super Bowl in four seasons.


There will be no more showdowns matching skills with Tom Brady or wits with Bill Belichick — against whom he was just 6-11 but 3-1 in AFC championships.

‘‘I get asked a lot about my legacy,’’ Manning said before Super Bowl 50. ‘‘For me, it’s being a good teammate, having the respect of my teammates, having the respect of the coaches and players. That’s important to me. I am not taking this for granted. I just love football. I always have.’’

The 18th season for No. 18 was by far his most trying on the field. He had to adjust to new coach Gary Kubiak’s run-based offense, to unrelenting health issues, and to questions about his character on his way to winning his second Super Bowl title.

Manning, whose dry wit and star power has made him a staple of late-night television and 30-second commercials for nearly two decades, saw his squeaky-clean image take a beating as the final pages were flipped on his storied career.

The NFL is investigating allegations that human growth hormone was shipped to his home in his wife’s name following an Al Jazeera report that Manning angrily dismissed as ‘‘garbage.’’ And in a new lawsuit filed last month. Manning was cited as an example of a hostile environment for women at the University of Tennessee for his alleged harassment of a female trainer in 1996. The university filed a motion to strike a reference to Manning from the Title IX lawsuit.


A torn ligament in his left foot hampered Manning all the way back to August. It led to his worst statistical season and sidelined him for six weeks before that fairy tale finish in Santa Clara, California, when his defense carried him across the finish line.

Manning had to play the role of game manager for the first time during Denver’s defense-fueled run to the title.

‘‘I'm just glad I was on the same team as our defense,’’ Manning said as he relished his second Super Bowl win.

Although his teammates said his speech on the eve of the game felt very much like a goodbye, Manning didn’t call it his ‘‘last rodeo’’ right away, saying he needed time to reflect.

‘‘There’s no question that his work ethic is what made him into one of the great quarterbacks of all time,’’ Elway said. ‘‘All the film study Peyton did and the process that he went through with game planning and understanding what the other teams did was second to none.’’

Manning finishes his career with 539 touchdown passes, 71,940 passing yards, and 186 wins, all NFL records. He also holds the league record for touchdown passes in a season (55), and threw for at least 4,000 yards in every season of his career except his rookie campaign and the 2005 and 2015 seasons.

He appeared in four Super Bowls overall — XLI and XLIV with the Colts and XLVII and 50 with the Broncos — and won two.


Manning’s rivalry with Brady stretches back to their first meeting in September 2001. The teams of the two signal callers faced off 17 times, in the regular season and playoffs, and Brady won 11 of those matchups, including their first two contests by a combined score of 82-30. Manning didn't notch his first win in the series until November 2005 when the Colts topped the Patriots, 40-21, in Gillette Stadium. The quarterbacks have split their last 10 meetings, winning five games each. Brady holds the 3-2 edge in meetings with Manning in a Broncos uniform. Manning holds a 3-1 advantage over Brady in AFC Championship games.

Despite his regular-season accolades, Manning at times struggled in the postseason. The win in Super Bowl 50 gave him a 14-13 playoff record. He threw 40 touchdowns, 25 interceptions and completed 63.2 percent of his passes in the postseason.

Peyton Manning held the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 last month.Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Manning was never the best athlete, but his off-the-charts preparation and other-worldly memory recall made him rise above the rest, suggested teammate DeMarcus Ware.

‘‘He beat you mentally,’’ said Ware, who came to Denver two years ago for the chance to play with Manning. ‘‘That was his guide: Physically you might be faster than me, you might be more athletic than me, but I'm going to outsmart you every time.’’

Manning relinquishes the game he loves secure in having left an indelible imprint on America’s most popular sport.

‘‘He was on the forefront of basically a revolution in the way offenses are run in the National Football League,’’ Joe Theismann said recently. ‘‘His footprint was bigger than just the cities he played in. He transformed the position. The style of offense that he ran in Indianapolis was revolutionary and nobody ever figured out how to stop it there — or in Denver.


‘‘The only thing that’s basically slowed Peyton Manning down was Father Time.’’


■ Ben Volin: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning bring out the best in each other

■ Christopher L. Gasper: If this is it, Peyton Manning went out a winner

■ Gasper: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning are bonded by history