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15 years ago John Elway retired from Denver after winning the Super Bowl; Is Peyton next?

John Elway doesn’t see Peyton Manning riding off into that orange Rocky Mountain sunset the way Elway did 15 years ago if the Denver Broncos quarterback caps his record-setting season with a second Super Bowl ring, but it could happen.

Elway’s body was breaking down, having been sacked 516 times — 244 more than Manning has been in about the same number of games, but Manning had four surgeries on his neck, and while he has broke every record known to man, he could just walk out on top.

Elway said he’ll meet with Manning after the season to talk about his future. But the four-time MVP who will likely have No. 5 soon certainly doesn’t seem to be wringing the last Sundays out of his battered body like Elway was doing back in 1998. After all, Manning has thrown for 97 touchdowns in his two seasons in Denver, including an NFL-record 55 this season.

“When you leave this game, you want to leave it on your last leg and try not to leave anything on the table. … I was just fortunate to be able to be on two great football teams and be able to win world championships when my ‘last leg’ broke,” said Elway, who retired after leading the Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl title on Jan. 31, 1999.

“I missed four games my last year. So, could I have gotten through another year? Sure, I could have,” Elway said. “But would it have been at the level I want? … Was I enjoying the game as much as I had enjoyed it? No, because it took me so long to heal. It was kind of the beginning of the body breaking down. So the combination of both — and being able to run off into the sunset — made it easier for me.”

While I see Elway’s point, my biggest concern is what the doctor’s will say after the season.  If the doctor’s say the neck is not all the way healed, we could see Peyton in his final game on Super Bowl Sunday.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out, but I hope Manning can get that ring because he deserves it.

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