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Manning thinking of Colts rematch

– Peyton Manning still holds Indianapolis in a special place. Even if Denver is opening the season against his former team.

Two days after Manning found out his rematch with the Colts would be the first Sunday night game of the NFL’s season, the reigning MVP returned to town for a very different reason – to help host an annual fundraiser for the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent.

It’s the first time Manning has been back since his emotional October homecoming ended with Denver’s first loss of the season.

“I had a pretty good feeling that game (Colts-Broncos) would be on TV,” Manning said as reporters laughed. “It’s a tough schedule with three playoff teams (Indy, Kansas City and Seattle) right off the bat and we play the Colts right at the start. They’re a good team, they were right there at the end and we know they’ll be an excellent opponent.”

Manning expects the Colts to be so good, in fact, that after taking a quick peek at the schedule Thursday, the record-breaking quarterback changed his plans and immediately returned to the weight room. His teammates soon followed.

What else are players to do when they see the only five-time MVP in league history going in for another overtime session?

For Manning, there’s plenty at stake this season. He’s coming off a year in which he proved he was back to his old ways by breaking NFL records for yards passing and TD passes and then won a third AFC title before a devastating blowout loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl. He wasn’t even sure he’d be back this year until doctors examined his surgically-repaired neck.

Now, the 38-year-old Manning says, he intends to keep playing as long as his body allows it and as long as the Broncos want to keep him.

But this weekend is one of those rare times Manning pushes football to the back burner.

After Thursday’s workouts in Denver, Manning flew to Indianapolis and spent Friday with patients and their families at the hospital that bears his name.

On Saturday night, he planned to add to the $7 million-plus total he helped raise over the past six years at the Celebration of Caring Gala.

This is the third straight year he’s come from Denver to attend the event.

“It’s one of the best teams that I’ve ever been part of,” Manning said, referring to the people he’s met at the hospital. “I’m not sure who are the bigger heroes – the patients or the staff. It’s truly inspiring.”

Reporters were not allowed inside the FedEx Aircraft Hangar where the event was held because of security reasons, but Manning has traditionally raised money by auctioning off a vast array of autographed items from some of the biggest names in sports and beyond. Two years ago, the prizes included an autographed item from Mother Theresa and a clipping from a contract signed by Marilyn Monroe.

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