Photo: Brad Ward (Flickr)
Last fall, Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis for a Super Bowl reunion. In October, he’s coming back for some personal honors.
Team owner Jim Irsay announced Tuesday that the Colts will unveil a statue of Manning outside Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 7. One day later, the Colts will honor the biggest star of their Indy era by retiring the familiar No. 18 and inducting Manning into the team’s ring of honor during a game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Peyton will always be a Colt,” Irsay said in a statement released by the team. “This will be an event our city, state and Colts fans around the world can celebrate and be proud of.”
Four of Manning’s former teammates — Marvin Harrison, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James and Jeff Saturday — have already been inducted into the Ring of Honor. So has Tony Dungy, the coach of Indy’s only Super Bowl-winning team, and front office executive Bill Polian, who drafted Manning with the first overall pick in 1998.
He will become the 14th player in the Ring of Honor — and the first Indianapolis Colts player to have his number retired.
Perhaps the most fitting tribute will be the Saturday afternoon party to show off the new statue outside Lucas Oil Stadium, a venue many believe Manning helped land more than a decade ago. Citizens and politicians around the city and state found it next to impossible to just say no to a player revered as much for his all-American personality and incredible community work as he was for his successes on the field.
But there have been some awkward moments in the Irsay-Manning relationship.
After the 2011 season, when Manning missed all 16 games with a neck injury, Irsay and Manning were involved in a public spat over the quarterback’s prognosis — with the Super Bowl in town. One month later, Irsay released Manning, who wound up in Denver.
Since then, Irsay has said publicly he believed the Colts should have won more than one Super Bowl with Manning behind center. Manning did win one more ring before retiring after the 2015 season, with the Broncos.
Now, Irsay and Manning appear to be on the same page.
In March 2016, Irsay and Manning held a post-retirement news conference in Indy to honor Manning’s legacy. That’s when Irsay announced the party plans, but without a date.
“I am humbled, and I am grateful to Jim and the Irsay family for this tremendous honor,” Manning said.
Manning spent his first 13 seasons in Indy, where he won a record four MVP awards and his first Super Bowl title. He retired after winning his second title, and a fifth MVP award with the Broncos.
He won two Offensive Player of the Year awards, was voted the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year, went to 14 Pro Bowls and finished as the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (71,940) and touchdown passes (539). He also set single-season league records for yards (5,477) and TD passes (55) in 2013.
In a season-opening win against the Colts in 2014, Manning became the second player in league history to defeat all 32 teams. But Manning lost the three other games he played against Indy, twice at Lucas Oil Stadium, and in January 2015 at Denver in the playoffs.