(Reuters) - With speculation swirling on whether the Super Bowl will mark the end of Peyton Manning's illustrious NFL career, the Denver Broncos quarterback may have tipped his hand moments after punching his ticket to the championship game.
After his Broncos beat the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC title game, Manning and opposing head coach Bill Belichick hugged and had a quick exchange on the field that was caught by NFL Network cameras.
"Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure," Manning, who will turn 40 in March, said in the exchange while blue and orange confetti rained down on them.
"You are a great competitor ..." Belichick responded.
Manning battled through injuries, missed six games and seemed to lose arm strength this past regular season as he tossed just nine touchdown passes against 17 interceptions.
But the future Hall of Fame quarterback has played mistake-free football in these playoffs and will be gunning for his second Super Bowl title when the Broncos play the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.
Earlier this month, when asked by a Denver Post reporter is the team's upcoming playoff run felt like his last rodeo, Manning, who has one year LEFT on his contract, replied: "I'd be lying if I said I'm not thinking about that."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)