Peyton Manning’s retirement announcement got off to an emotional start

Peyton Manning’s retirement press conference got off to an emotional start Monday, even though the quarterback — and his team — had plenty of time to prepare his going-away speech.

NFL fans had been waiting on Manning’s decision since February 7, when he led the Denver Broncos to a victory over the Carolina Panthers, and they got one exactly a month later.

The five-time NFL MVP and career passing yards leader said goodbye at a press conference at Broncos team headquarters, ending an 18-year career that finished with four seasons in Denver capped by his second Super Bowl win. He was introduced by Denver’s last Super Bowl quarterback, general manager John Elway, in between speeches from team president Joe Ellis and head coach Gary Kubiak.

"There’s not a guy in the NFL who can walk away and say I’ve done everything at the quarterback position in the NFL. No one can say that, but Peyton Manning can say that," Elway said.

Both Elway and Kubiak gave emotional sendoffs to one of the NFL’s all-time greats before Manning took the podium.

Manning, 39, began his speech with a quivering voice while reading from a prepared script and talked about his first NFL game with the Indianapolis Colts, back in 1998. He recalled completing his first pass to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk and getting the chance to meet legendary Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas after the game.

Manning said Unitas, who passed away in 2002, told him he’d be watching him and that he needed to "stay at it."

"I hope that old No. 19 is up there with his flat top and maybe with his black high-tops on, and I hope he knows that I’ve stayed at it and that he’s even a little proud of me," Manning said.

He went on to thank teammates and just about anyone who had coached him and wound up by saying, "God bless all of you, and God bless football," before beginning to answer questions.

The first question — after weeks of back and forth in the media about whether he’d really retire — was simply about his decision process. Manning reiterated what he said following the Super Bowl win — that he wanted to take former coach Tony Dungy’s advice and make sure he made the right choice. He took a vacation, went hunting with former teammate Jeff Saturday and then made his decision.

"I thought about it a lot and prayed about it a lot, and it was just the right time," Manning said. "I don’t throw as well as I used to or run as well, but I’ve always had good timing."

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