Jan 1, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) signs autographs before the start of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) arrives from on the bus and walks to the locker room before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
KUSA - When Peyton Manning left Indianapolis in March 2012, the quarterback knew this day eventually would come.
The 37-year-old Manning plays in Indianapolis against the Colts tonight for the first time since being released after 14 seasons. He'll walk into the Lucas Oil Stadium as a visiting player.
Manning has returned to Indianapolis often since he was released, but tonight's return is on an entirely different level.
"It's hard to predict how I will feel, emotionally. Football certainly is an emotional game, but to predict how you will feel? I just don't know," Manning told reporters earlier this week. "It's an unfamiliar opponent, a lot of guys that I've never played against and certainly a new scheme. How I'll feel walking into the stadium? I can't tell you that right now."
"I'll probably know after the game [but] I probably may not tell you that after the game either," he joked. "It's just too hard to predict."
Manning was picked No. 1 in the 1998 NFL draft by the Colts, but was released in March 2012 after a series of neck surgeries. He signed two weeks later with the Broncos. In his second season in Denver Manning is out to his fifth 6-0 start. He led the Colts to 14-0 start in 2009; 13-0 in 2005; 9-0 in 2006; and 7-0 in 2007.
There is a pregame video tribute planned by the Colts for Manning, who won one Super Bowl and four MVP titles with the Colts.
"I don't know what that really is going to be," Manning said of the tribute. "I don't think that's going to change kind of the pregame preparation for what you have to do to get ready to play."
The reunion week got off to a rocky start when Colts owner Jim Irsay said the reason he released Manning was too few Super Bowl titles and a looming $28 million signing bonus.
Manning has thrown an NFL-record 22 touchdown passes in the first six games and needs five against the Colts to equal the seven-game mark of 27 set by Tom Brady to open the 2007 season (when he finished with an NFL-record 50 TD passes).
Tonight's game also marks another return: Broncos linebacker Von Miller will play tonight after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Miller could not practice with the team during his suspension, but returned bigger and in top shape.
"I've got a lot of good advice, but I feel like it all starts with me. No matter how much help you have around - if you can't do it, you just can't do it," Miller said this week. "I feel like I've taken steps in that direction. It's a constant struggle every day, but I'm positive that I'll be all right."
To make room for Miller, the Broncos waived wide receiver Tavarres King, whom they'd promoted from their practice squad earlier in the week to keep him from joining the Green Bay Packers. King was a fifth-round draft pick from Georgia.
Miller has 30 sacks in his first two seasons and guaranteed a Super Bowl victory in the off-season.
The Broncos' defense is best in the league against the run (69.8 yards per game) but the NFL's worst against the pass (337.7 per game). They rank 29th in overall defense, allowing 407.5 yards per game.
Tonight's game is the NBC's Football Night in America game, and pregame coverage starts at 5 p.m. Kickoff is 6:40 p.m.
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