Peyton is all over Indianapolis, except the place he really wants to be

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Peyton Manning is both everywhere and nowhere as the Super Bowl is held in his stadium. (Getty Images)  
Peyton Manning is both everywhere and nowhere as the Super Bowl is held in his stadium. (Getty Images)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning is everywhere. The looming stadium that stands over this city was practically built by him, like Manning is an Egyptian sun god and the stadium an offering. The Colts franchise was energized by him. This city adores him.

Peyton Manning is everywhere. In the commercials that air here. In the talk of his spinal column. At Super Bowl events. Signing autographs. In the city's DNA. Everywhere. Even on the tip of the media's tongue. Even on his brother's mind. Even in the stories told about him by Eli Manning.

When they were kids, Peyton would do what older brothers do: he tortured Eli.

"His most popular move, he would pin me down and take his knuckles and knock on my chest and make me name the 12 schools in the SEC," Eli explained. "I didn't know them all at the time, but I quickly learned them. It was a great learning technique. I don't suggest anyone else try it out, but it definitely made me learn the schools of the SEC. Once I figured those out, he moved on. There were 28 teams in the NFL at that point. So all teams in the NFL. I had to get my studying on for that. Then once I figured that out, the one I never got was the 10 brands of cigarettes. When he really wanted to torture me and knew I had no shot of ever getting it, that's when I just started screaming for my mom or dad to come save me ... "

Yes, Peyton Manning is everywhere ... except playing in the Super Bowl in his very own backyard.

This is the cruel symmetry of sports. The NFL's most famous player becomes a key cog in delivering the Super Bowl to his backyard, then the game arrives and he watches from afar, watches his brother practice in his stadium, breathe his air, play in the dome Peyton built.

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What's worse is that multiple league sources familiar with Manning's attempt to recover from multiple neck surgeries say there is increasing belief that Manning's neck ailment will prevent him from ever playing in the NFL again. No one outside of Manning, his family and Manning's doctors knows, but there continues to be growing belief that Manning's neck is far worse than either Manning or the Colts are admitting. The situation took a strange turn later Thursday when a doctor said he cleared Manning to play but was later refuted early Friday in a tweet from Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Things are beginning to look awfully bleak.

This has to be killing Manning -- absolutely, completely killing him. He might never play again, and his younger brother who he used to give nooggies to is about to quarterback in the ultimate game in Manning's stadium. No, these are not great times for Peyton Manning.

He has actually made more news off the field than on it. Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning got into a tiny spat last week and now Irsay won't talk Manning. Or mostly won't. Irsay this week was at an event with Indiana governor Mitch Daniels when Irsay was queried about the Colts' Manning.

"When I was asked about Peyton, I was going to say why don't you ask Mitch about his presidential run?" Irsay joked. He then turned to Daniels. "Any comments, Mitch?" Laughter.

"I really have not thought much about playing in Indianapolis," Eli said. "It's not really a time to reflect right now on that. It's just a matter of trying to get ready for the Patriots and get ready to play this game, and get ready for their defense. We'll look back on the fact of playing in the Super Bowl in the town where he plays for the Colts. And we'll look back on the fact that playing a Super Bowl in Peyton's, in the town where he played his NFL ... uh, you know, plays for the Colts. So we'll look on that later."

Even during Eli's slip of the tongue comes an interesting Peyton mention.

Manning remains a topic all across his city. He's hosting parties and attending some Super Bowl events. On Saturday, he will co-host the DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl with Mark Cuban.

Manning hanging with an NBA owner while Eli storms history. Peyton must want to throw up in his mouth a little.

Yes, Peyton Manning is everywhere ... except playing in the Super Bowl in his very own backyard.

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