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Peyton Manning return familiar vibe to Wayne Gretzky


The homecoming comparisons will be made liberally all Sunday leading up to Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis.

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The man who might best be able to relate to the jubilant welcome Manning will experience didn't even play football.

Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's "Great One," once left Edmonton on good terms, similar to Manning's situation in Indy. He told the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer that he understands the feelings of returning to a city full of friends.

"Let me tell you something, Peyton won't sleep much this week because of the emotions and excitement that he's probably feeling," Gretzky said. "I can't speak for him, but I know what I went through. It's pretty emotional. I spent a lot of years there, like he did, and you become almost friends with the city."

Gretzky started his professional career in Indy at the age of 17 -- a brief six-game stint with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association -- so he understands the dynamic of the city.

"Indianapolis is similar to Edmonton in that it's not New York or Los Angeles," Gretzky said. "So you're at the stadium, and the places you go to eat, and the people you meet in the community are the people who are in those seats. So they become friends. They're not just fans, they become more like friends. So it becomes very emotional."

Unlike some homecomings -- Brett Favre's to Green Bay, for instance -- there won't be a fraction of the fan base harboring ill will toward Manning. Gretzky called the games he played in Edmonton the rest of his career some of his least favorite.

Gretzky got a four-minute standing ovation in his first return to the hockey-crazed city. Manning's return to Indy will garner a similar response. Then the game will start and we'll see if the workman-like attitude Manning put on all week is overwhelmed by all of the friends in the crowd.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed every Week 7 game.