By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama welcomed the Denver Broncos to the White House on Monday to congratulate the Super Bowl champions for their victory over the Carolina Panthers and send off retiring quarterback Peyton Manning with words of praise.
"I have to say I’m so pleased to be able to host Peyton here at the White House before I left. Anybody who has been a football fan has watched what is one of the greatest Hall of Fame careers ever," Obama said, with the team standing behind him in the White House Rose Garden.
"We were all obviously a little disappointed to see him hang it up this spring. But as somebody who is just a little bit older than he is, I was sympathetic to the idea that running around with these guys, it takes its toll," Obama, 54, said of Manning, 40.
Obama leaves office in January.
As he often does, Obama noted he remained a fan of his hometown team, the Chicago Bears, but he conceded that the Broncos had a good year.
"I will continue to root for the Bears," he said to laughter. "But I’ve got to give this organization credit for having done an extraordinary job. And this is a well-deserved celebration of an extraordinary season."
The Broncos won their third National Football League championship with a 24-10 win over Carolina in the Super Bowl in February. The following month, Manning retired after an 18-year career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver that established him as one of the game's greatest quarterbacks.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)