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Colts legend Peyton Manning was "pretty close" to signing with division rival in 2012

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Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On what is still one of the most surreal days in recent football memory, the Indianapolis Colts released quarterback Peyton Manning on March 7, 2012. They did so due to uncertainty regarding Manning's health and the opportunity to draft once-in-a-generation prospect Andrew Luck in the upcoming NFL Draft.

That made Manning - one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history - a free agent. Numerous teams tried to get in the running to sign Manning, and he did his due diligence while determining where to sign. Ultimately, he choose the Denver Broncos, which wound up being a huge success. Manning won another MVP award and Super Bowl while playing in Denver and just retired earlier this year.

It turns out he almost signed with one of the Colts' AFC South rivals, however. Recently, Manning spoke with the Tennessean's Dave Ammenheuser about a variety of topics, including the Tennessee Titans' pursuit of him in 2012. “I was pretty close," Manning said of deciding to play for the Titans.

If Manning had signed with the Titans, it would have meant that he would would have played the Colts twice a year. It's also possible (and likely) that he wouldn't have achieved as much success as he did, as in Denver he was surrounded by a nice receiving corps and then later the league's best defense. While a good Manning still could have been enough to get the Titans to the playoffs, it's clear that he made the right choice in choosing a championship contender.

The Colts dominated the Manning-led Broncos over the past four years, winning three of their four matchups (including a divisional round playoff game), and it felt really weird for Colts fans to see Manning playing against Indianapolis. It could have felt even weirder, however, if Manning opted to play for a division rival - which it turns out he was pretty close to doing.