(Reuters) - Retired quarterback Peyton Manning, cut loose by Indianapolis four years ago after he lost a season to injury, will have his Colts' uniform No. 18 retired and a statue of him erected outside the stadium, the NFL club said on Friday.
Manning, who crowned his record-setting, 18-year career by helping the Denver Broncos win last month's Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers, returned to Indianapolis for an emotional news conference with owner Jim Irsay, who made the announcement.
"It's good to be up here with Peyton," Irsay told a packed room of reporters at team headquarters. "It seems like a short four years ago we were up here on a difficult day."
That news conference marked the Colts' decision not to bring Manning back.
Instead, armed with the number one pick in the NFL Draft due to the 2-14 mark logged in the absence of Manning, Indianapolis decided to face the future with Andrew Luck out of Stanford.
"It was a tough, emotional day four years ago. But I'm glad to be back," said Manning, who will celebrate his 40th birthday next week.
"I can't tell you how honored and humbled I am by that two pieces of news," he said about his retired jersey number and the statue outside Lucas Oil Stadium. "It was my honor and privilege to play for this organization for 14 years.
"I'll always be a Colt."
Manning, who missed the 2011 Colts season after several neck surgeries, moved on and signed with Denver where he won his record fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award and set a slew of single season and career passing records.
"We temporarily went in different directions," said Irsay. "It was always strange watching 18 out there without the horseshoe on his helmet," Irsay said about the Colts' logo.
"I think I speak for all Colts fans that we kind of feel like he's ours."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport Stokes)