ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In four days, Peyton Manning will play for the first time in his original NFL home as a horse of a different color.
The Indianapolis Colts will roll out the welcome mat for Manning, now the Denver Broncos quarterback, who will be honored with a pre-game tribute celebrating 14 mesmerizing seasons with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. However perception is building that Colts owner Jim Irsay tracked some mud onto the mat following his comments to USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell about the franchise's decision to move on from the NFL's only four-time MVP following the 2011 season.
Manning didn't say much in reaction to Irsay's comments Wednesday.
"I don't have any answer for you on that or any comment," he said.
But he did offer this insight a few minutes later: "I've learned that in life you need to be at peace with other people's decisions that affect you that you have no control over."
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Manning declined to speculate on what his state of mind will be at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night.
"It's hard to predict how I'll feel emotionally," he said. "How I'll feel walking into the stadium, I can't tell you that right now ... may not tell you after the game, either. It's just too hard to predict."
If Manning notches his 161st regular-season win this weekend, he'll own victories over all 32 NFL teams. He concedes the Colts are an "unfamiliar opponent" and the matchup differs in significant ways to his three hyped meetings with little brother Eli's New York Giants.
"I know Robert Mathis hits harder than Eli, I guarantee you that." Manning said of his ex-teammate, who is tied for the league lead with 9½ sacks.
But he acknowledged many of the current Broncos, and doubtless a lot of the Colts, could "care less" about his time in Indy.
"Fifty-two other guys are counting on you, coaches are counting on you," said Manning.
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Irsay touched off a firestorm with comments that have been construed as critical of the man who led the Colts to their only championship — but only one — in the last four decades.
"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay told Bell while referencing the lone Super Bowl ring Manning helped the Colts earn during his stay.
"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these," Irsay added. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this."
Irsay recounted that Manning told him in the offseason prior to the 2012 campaign that he would be "crazy" not to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the top of the draft, a decision that would effectively end Manning's tenure with the Colts.
"He's an extremely talented player," Manning said when asked about Luck on Wednesday. "Not only did he play well his rookie year, he's used it to his advantage to be even better this year. He's off to a hot start. Our defense is in for a tough challenge. ... That offense is capable of scoring a lot of points."
Irsay has taken to Twitter to clarify his comments since talking to Bell.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano also defended his boss, who also drew criticism from Broncos coach John Fox — he deemed Irsay's remarks "disappointing and inappropriate" but declined to further discuss the matter Wednesday — in a conference call with Denver reporters Wednesday.
"I don't think there is anybody that Mr. Irsay respects and cares for more than Peyton," Pagano said. "What can't you say about Peyton? What he's done for this organization and this city, these fans and football, it's off the charts. All I know is our owner has the utmost love and respect and passion for that guy, and always will."
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
Contributing: USA TODAY Sports' Lindsay H. Jones from Englewood, Colo.
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