"As difficult as this day is, it's made difficult because of the greatness and the things Peyton has done for our city, for our state, for our franchise," Irsay said.
One of Manning's signature moments came when he led the Colts to a 38-34 comeback victory over Tom Brady's New England Patriots in the 2007 AFC championship game in Indianapolis. The Colts went on to defeat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, and Manning took Reggie Miller's mantle as the city's favorite athlete for good.
"From all of us (hash)18 fans, I just want to say thank you for what you did for the city," Miller tweeted. "Thank you for being a LOYAL friend back in the day, you and your family will always be my FAM!!!!!"
Manning plans to live in Indy, even after he moves on to a different team, and he will continue his partnership with the children's hospital, too.
In part because Manning has been so engaged in the community, fans wished him well. Mayor Greg Ballard said Manning would "always be a Colt and a part of our Indianapolis community."
"This was a basketball town before Peyton," said Bill Benner, a longtime local sports writer and currently an official with the Horizon League. "He elevated football to a level I don't think would have happened otherwise ... All of us who've grown up here would have wished this ended some other way, but the circumstances were so incredibly unique."
It's more than just that rocket right arm that will be missed, too.
"On every front — for the sport, in the state, in the community and for the franchise — he's been arguably, and maybe unarguably, its greatest player and greatest representative," Polian said.
Owens said he hoped Manning can someday return to the game's greatest stage.
He added: "Wherever he lands, I hope he can continue the game, and I hope he sees another Super Bowl," Owens said. "But if he goes off and is really successful, it's going to be like, 'Man, we could've still had him.'"
Associated Press writer Carrie Schedler contributed to this report.
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