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Peyton Manning joins Denver Broncos

By Michael Martinez, CNN
March 20, 2012 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Fate of last year's popular Bronco QB Tim Tebow is uncertain
  • NEW: "I'm proud to be a Denver Bronco," Peyton Manning says at news conference
  • The former Colt was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player a record four times
  • Colts owner congratulates Peyton Manning "as he heads to a tremendous organization"

(CNN) -- Free agent quarterback Peyton Manning will play for the Denver Broncos, the team announced Tuesday.

"This is truly a special football environment, and I'm glad to be a part of it," Manning said at a news conference where the Broncos made the announcement.

"I haven't had a whole lot of time to breathe. This happened Monday morning," Manning said of his decision to join the Broncos.

He said he talked to a number of NFL teams before agreeing to a contract with Denver.

"I'm proud to be a Denver Bronco," he said.

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"It felt strange being in a new locker room. I haven't been anywhere else," said the quarterback.

Manning was released earlier this year by the Indianapolis Colts, the only team for which he's played in his 14-year pro career. In the subsequent weeks, the Super Bowl XLI victor -- who has been named the National Football League's Most Valuable Player a record four times -- has been hotly sought after by several teams.

He did not play during the 2011 season after having surgery to repair a neck injury, and he ended his career with the Colts this month in an emotional news conference.

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Broncos executive John Elway, also a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Broncos, said the team was satisfied with Manning's health and his ability to make the team competitive for a championship.

"We believe he can play as long as he wants," Elway said of Manning's health. "I don't consider it much of a risk knowing Peyton Manning."

The arrival in Denver of a superstar of Manning's stature raised questions about the fate of Tim Tebow, who became the Broncos starting quarterback last year amid electric fanfare and led the team into the playoffs. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, when he played for the University of Florida.

Manning said he would be a good teammate to Tebow, but Manning understood if Tebow pursued opportunities at other teams.

SI's Peter King: Broncos would be smart to keep Tebow

Elway, the team's executive vice president for football operations, didn't reveal Tebow's future status at the Broncos.

"Tim Tebow is a great kid. If I want someone to marry my daughter, it's him," Elway said.

"To his fans, I would say this: That's the tough part of this business," Elway said. "I've got to make the best decisions I can for the Denver Broncos.

"The personal side of this business is always tough," Elway said. "It's also a business where we're expected to win."

But Elway added: "Any time you got a player like Peyton Manning on your team, you've got a chance to win."

Manning will continue to wear No. 18 as he had for the 14 years he was at the Colts, but the Broncos will need to un-retire that jersey number, which belonged to quarterback Frank Tripucka, an original Bronco.

On the Broncos team website, Tripucka said in a statement that he spoke with Manning on the phone Tuesday morning.

"I had the privilege of speaking with Peyton Manning this morning, and I let him know that I would be honored if he wore No. 18 for the Denver Broncos," Tripucka said. "I have admired Peyton for a long time. He is one of the all-time greats, and having him wear the same jersey that I did brings me a lot of joy. I can't wait to see him in No. 18."

Jim Irsay, the Colts' owner and chief executive officer, said in a statement Tuesday morning he congratulates Manning "as he heads to a tremendous organization in the Denver Broncos. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his Hall of Fame career."

On Monday, indications were the Broncos were the only ones negotiating with Manning, deflating several other teams. The Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals were said to be among the others interested in signing Manning.

Several Denver Broncos players expressed excitement Monday that Manning had picked their team to join.

Running back Lance Ball wrote "Wow!" on his Twitter feed, while offensive lineman Ryan Clady tweeted, "Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"It makes you think big," linebacker Robert Ayers told reporters. "If you look at (it) historically, the teams that won the Super Bowl are teams with a guy like Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees and Eli (Manning) and Aaron Rodgers and all those guys. So it definitely makes you confident."

Linebacker Joe Mays, who officially signed again with the Broncos on Monday, told CNN affiliate KMGH, "We're definitely going to go for that Super Bowl ring, and we're going to do whatever it takes. We've got the man at quarterback to play for us."

Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams said in a statement that he spoke with Manning on Monday morning.

"I want to thank the whole organization for their efforts in trying to sign Peyton and also to Peyton for the time he put into the process," he said. "Peyton called me this morning to inform me of his decision and obviously I am disappointed, because I thought we would be a perfect fit."

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