On his 14th and final snap of the Denver Broncos' summer scrimmage Saturday, Manning found Eric Decker for a 9-yard touchdown toss that drew the largest ovation from the biggest crowd ever to watch the team practice.
In between, it was just so-so. The Broncos had two three-and-outs before Manning drove them downfield for the score.
But it was another mile marker in Manning's comeback from his lost 2011 season and a tuneup for Thursday night's preseason opener at Chicago, when the four-time NFL MVP suits up in a game for the first time since playing in the Pro Bowl following the 2010 season.
Manning missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that sapped his arm strength and led to tearful departure from the Indianapolis Colts. He hasn't shown any ill effects from the injury and nary any rust in his right arm this summer.
Manning's first appearance in blue and orange at Sports Authority Field drew 41,304 fans, almost double the old record of 20,782, set two years ago when a guy by the name of Tim Tebow was the main attraction.
Amid the sea of orange No. 18 jerseys were some forlorn Colts fans who donned his old colors. One of them held up a sign that read, "We drove 15 hrs 2 c Manning. We miss u in Indy, Peyton."
The crowd went wild when Manning came out of the tunnel and when he signed autographs on his way back. They cheered just about every move he made in between.
"Well, it was a great crowd," Manning said. "I know players were pumped; they were kind of feeding off the energy of the fans and everybody was into it. It will be a good film to learn from on Monday once we study. I thought there were some good things, and some things we need to work on, obviously, but overall, it was a productive day, in my opinion."
And now it's onto next week and preparation for the preseason games, which Manning indicated he would treat as he always has. In Indianapolis, Manning didn't throw many passes in the preseason games, but he generally played a series or two in the opener, into the second quarter in the second game and maybe one series after halftime in the third game before sitting out the fourth one altogether.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press