Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning bid an emotional farewell to the National Football League on Monday after an 18-year career that established him as one of the game's greatest quarterbacks.
"(Hall of Fame quarterback) Johnny Unitas told me 'Peyton, stay at it. I'm pulling for you.' Well, I have stayed at it. For 18 years," Manning, who capped his brilliant career by helping the Broncos win a Super Bowl last month, told a news conference in Denver. "Today I retire from the game of pro football."
Manning, who turns 40 later this month, leaves the NFL as its all-time leader in passing touchdowns and passing yards and as the league's only five-time winner of the Most Valuable Player award.
The cerebral signal-caller left the stage on a high-point, becoming the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and first to win with two different teams following the NFL crown he won with the 2006 Indianapolis Colts.
In the final moments of his retirement news conference, Peyton Manning got choked up when he talked about how hard he prepared during his career.
"When I look back on my NFL career I'll know without a doubt that I gave everything I had to help my team walk away with a win," he said, voice breaking with nearly every word. "There were other players more talented, but there was no one who could outprepare me. And because of that I have no regrets."
He then paraphrased from the Bible: "I have fought the good fight. I finished my football race and after 18 years it's time. God bless all of you and God bless football."
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, the media outlets reported, citing sources close to the quarterback.
The decision comes as the Broncos faced a Wednesday deadline in which Manning would be guaranteed $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.
In addition to his career yards and passing touchdowns records and his record five MVP awards, Manning's Super Bowl win gave him an NFL record 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 regular season and he showed a distinct loss of throwing strength.
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.
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