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Peyton Manning: how he changed Indianapolis and the Colts

Peyton Manning not only resuscitated the Colts franchise, but he also became the first and perhaps most admired citizen of Indianapolis. It's clear there will not be another Peyton Manning. 

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning walks off the field after the New York Jets defeated Indianapolis, 17-16, in an NFL AFC wild card football playoff game two season ago – perhaps his last game as a Indianapolis Colt, it turns out. The Colts announced Wednesday that they were releasing Manning because of complications from neck surgery.

Nam Y. Huh/AP/File

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There was a telling moment Tuesday night, just as the news broke that Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts would be parting ways. Shortly afterward, a bevy of reporters descended upon an SUV carrying Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay, who had just stepped off a flight coming from south Florida together.

“Hey guys, we’re not really going to say anything now,” a grave-looking Irsay said as he rolled down the window. Manning, sitting next to him, smiled and waved.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” he drawled kindly, displaying the gawky charisma that has made him the one of the most marketable sports personalities in America. “We’re good. We’re gonna do it the right way tomorrow.” 

They were saying basically the same thing, but Manning’s “no comment” was worlds friendlier than Irsay’s. If you didn’t understand English, you might think he was inviting the reporters to hang out and watch TV.

The incident illustrated just how much Irsay and the Colts are giving up in cutting Manning, beyond a quarterback and a player so instrumental in making decisions on offense that he may as well have been a coach. They’re giving up the face of an entire franchise, a public-relations genius, and most prominent citizen of the city of Indianapolis. It will be difficult for any subsequent player to become the face of the franchise in quite the way that Manning has.

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