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Peyton Manning Returns to Football Tonight

July 28, 2012; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) during training camp at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
July 28, 2012; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) during training camp at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight, after a 579 day absence, one of the greatest players in the history of the National Football League will return to the playing field. Peyton Manning will play for the first time since January of 2011. Not only his comeback is garnering attention, however.

He also will appear in a different uniform for the first time in 14 years. From 1998-2011, Peyton Manning wore the blue and white. Every time he dressed for a game, he had that horseshoe on his helmet.

Not tonight.

After an offseason of change well documented here at Stampede Blue, Manning was released. The greatest player in the history of the franchise was sent packing. It needed to happen, but it was still tough for Colts fans.

The Colts have a young team and a young quarterback that I am incredibly excited about. I can't wait to watch him on Sunday. But tonight, my favorite player ever is playing, but not for the Colts. For the Denver Broncos.

It will be tough to see him in that uniform, I know. I always dreamed of him finishing his career with the Colts. I thought he would reach 400 touchdown passes in the blue and white. Instead, he will throw number 400 with Denver (currently he is at 399 - he will likely reach 400 in the Broncos' first regular season game September 9th).

Tonight, he will get one or two drives in Chicago for his first preseason game. It doesn't seem like that long ago when he suited up for Indianapolis in his first preseason game, this one in Seattle. His first throw was a quick slant to Marvin Harrison. He took it all the way 48 yards for a score. Manning later joked about how easy the NFL was - throw it to Marvin and he would do the rest.

Over the next 13 years, Manning did make it look easy (he got a lot of help from Marvin, too).

Looking back on it, there were tons of great memories from a great player. For so long, it felt as only Colts fans truly understood his greatness. Now Broncos fans will get a taste of that. There is something special about Peyton Manning quarterbacking your team that only a fan can explain.

Broncos nation is excited - as they should be - about Peyton Manning's arrival. Ecstatic, actually.

I'm excited for Manning too. I truly hope he wins another super bowl (as long as he doesn't beat the Colts to get there). I will be watching Manning for the rest of his career, and cheering hard for him as long as he is not playing the Colts. Again, he's my favorite player ever.

But I am also glad he's on the Broncos, not the Colts. I know how hard it was for me to see him go. I know how hard it will be to see him lighting it up in Denver. But he is a 36 year old quarterback nearing the end. My favorite team, the Colts, now have a 22 year old quarterback who is the best prospect since Manning. I'd take the latter any day, and the Colts did.

Colts fans, it is ok to cheer for both the Colts and Peyton Manning. It is alright to sincerely hope Peyton does well. I do. But keep your loyalties first of all to the horseshoe and, while the Broncos may be the ones winning now, in a few years it will be Andrew Luck's Colts doing the winning. Manning will be around for a few more years, Luck for the next decade.

Luck will be compared to Manning because Peyton was the perfect quarterback for this city. Peyton epitomized everything Colts fans wanted in a quarterback, a leader, and the face of the city. They can't just let him go. And that is why we will still be watching Peyton Manning on and cheering hard for him.

First off, I'm a Colts fan. But I will still root for Peyton Manning. Yes, this is a Colts blog that covers the Colts, but after so many years of giving us all winning football, the least we can do is wish him good luck.

Tonight, Peyton Manning will play an NFL game for the first time in 579 days. I will be watching. And I will be cheering.

Good luck, Peyton.

For complete coverage of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, check out Mile High Report.