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Instant Debate

Comeback player of year: Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson?

The night before Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL will salute its best players and plays from the 2012 season with "NFL Honors," a star-studded football and entertainment event at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans. Just like last year, Alec Baldwin will host the proceedings, which will be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m. ET on Feb. 2.

When the 2011 season ended, it was fair to wonder whether Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning would even be playing football in 2012. One amazing season later, both are top candidates to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Who would you pick for the honor?

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  • Adam Schein
  • Peyton Manning came back from the brink in a big way

A year ago, we were hearing serious rumblings that Peyton Manning was done. When he first started throwing at Duke, he hardly resembled the Peyton Manning we'd known. And he wouldn't again, actually, until he led the Denver Broncos in a majestic comeback against the San Diego Chargers in a mid-October Monday Night Football classic.

For playing like an all-time great after enduring multiple neck surgeries, Manning got my vote, just ahead of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Manning's greatness was more surprising than Peterson's.

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  • Charley Casserly
  • Manning made the impossible look easy

One can certainly make an argument for Adrian Peterson, but no one can deny that Peyton Manning is a worthy choice for this award. After all, he did not play a snap during the 2011 season, and reportedly underwent four surgeries. After spending 14 years with the same organization, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback joined a new team, and helped the Denver Broncos finish with the best record in the AFC. He also led the AFC in passer rating and threw 37 touchdown passes. It was as if he did not miss a beat.

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  • Elliot Harrison
  • Peterson should take home two honors this season

Adrian Peterson deserves both the MVP Award and Comeback Player of the Year Award, even if he doesn't fit the profile of someone who would typically earn the latter honor.

You see, the Comeback Player of the Year Award is usually given to a guy who missed most of the previous year, or just was lousy the season before. Peterson meets neither criteria, having suffered his knee injury late in a fairly good 2011 campaign. However, the effort and desire that went into his return -- nine months after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament -- simply can't be ignored.

He defied all odds just by getting back on the field as quickly as he did. When you add in the fact that he also nearly broke the NFL's all-time single-season rushing record, it's certainly acceptable to give the man two prestigious awards (though he probably won't win both).

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  • Adam Rank
  • Best. Comeback. Ever.

I don't want to knock Manning's return from numerous neck surgeries; he clearly put on an inspiring performance this season. But what Adrian Peterson did was so much more amazing.

If Peterson had returned to the Vikings and merely rushed for 800 yards in 2012, that would've been considered a success. But Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson's seemingly unreachable single-season rushing mark.

Our society is often so wrapped up in the latest thing; we're quick to call something "the best ever." But this really might have been the best comeback ever.

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  • Brian Billick
  • Adrian Peterson reached ridiculous heights

Adrian Peterson had the best season of his career in 2012. Never mind the fact that it started just nine months after he underwent major reconstructive knee surgery.

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