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Indianapolis Colts unveil Peyton Manning statue with ceremony

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts unveiled a statue of Peyton Manning on a plaza outside Lucas Oil Stadium in a ceremony attended by hundreds of fans and featuring remarks from Hall of Famers coach Tony Dungy and executive Bill Polian, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The five-time NFL MVP concluded the event Saturday by proclaiming "I will always be a Colt" and throwing autographed footballs into the crowd.

The bronze likeness features Manning in his Colts uniform preparing to throw a pass.

On Sunday, Manning will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor and become the first player from the franchise's Indianapolis era to have his jersey retired.

Manning led Indianapolis to its only Super Bowl victory, 29-17 over the Chicago Bears in 2007, and was voted the game's MVP.

Read Manning's full speech to the crowd Saturday below:

"People in places come into our lives for a purpose. Then it becomes our job to discover why and how to make the most of them. As a kid, I used to read the Dr. Seuss book, 'Oh, the places you'll go.' Ashley and I read the same book now to our children. I never would have imagined how perfect those words would be on draft day, 1998. Today is your day, it said. You're off to great places. You're off and away. Well, you heard what they say. You never know the true value of a moment, until it becomes a memory. For so many reasons, if I was to draw a map of my life, Indianapolis would have as prominent a place there as it does in my heart. Why? Because the Colts chose me as their first overall pick. And it's certainly nice to be wanted because it was my first NFL team. And just like your first car, your first is always ingrained in your memory. Because I had some of the most remarkable, selfless teammates, many that are here today -- and I can't thank you guys enough for being here -- coaches and support staff that ever existed in the NFL. We weren't just a collection of players. We could have been the very definition of the word team. Because together, we led this community on a journey that transformed Indianapolis from a basketball and racing town into a football haven.

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"In Indy, out of necessity, from the very first day to my last, I had to test my personal and physical limits. I had to discover a way to expand and extend those limits. Beyond what everyone, including me, believed were finite boundaries. And of course, because I won my first Super Bowl while wearing the horseshoe on my helmet.

"And last but not least, because of the remarkable Colts fans, I love seeing you wear a No. 18 jersey in the old RCA Dome or in Lucas Oil Stadium on game days, and how your cheers reverberated throughout the stadium. I'm amazed at the current fans' letter-writing campaign and the hashtag, Thank you, Peyton. I am not on social media, but if I was, I would use the hashtag, Thank you, Indianapolis.

"It was both an honor and privilege to be one of you. There's not enough time or words to express the enormous gratitude that I feel today. But let me start by thanking Ryan Freeney for sculpting a lasting reminder of my tenure as a Colt. Luckily for me, and even more so for our children, Ryan promised that my bronze forehead would be a little smaller and my neck a little shorter than they actually are.

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"Thank you to Ashley, Marshall, Mosley, my mom and dad, Cooper, Eli, our entire family. I love you all, I could have never imagined or followed through on my dream of playing in the NFL without your unwavering support. Thank you to all my friends, for always having my back and for the kind words you have shared privately and publicly. Jeff Saturday, as a friend and as a teammate, you gave me confidence. I love you, pal. The public doesn't always see this, but great teammates choose to put team over self. That was you, Jeff.

"David Letterman, I always admired your humor. That's why your show was the only one I ever went on. And to be included in your last show was an awesome honor. I appreciated that night how you thanked the people behind the scenes. Often unheralded people who like those behind the scenes in the NFL are nonetheless crucial to our success. If I had a top 10 list, Dave, you would be on it.

"To former governor, and good friend, Mitch Daniels, you made me and my family feel like real Hoosiers. Purdue certainly has a gem in you.

"Commissioner Goodell, your presence here alone speaks volumes. It is an honor to have you here to mark this occasion.

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"What can I say about Bill Polian? As he said before the draft, I told him, 'If you take me, I promise you we'll win a championship. If you don't, I'm going to come back and kick your butt, I promise you.' I don't know if it was fear or faith, that led you to draft me Bill, but I sure am glad you did. Thanks for taking a chance on me. I will always be indebted to you for your support.

"I was blessed to have Tony Dungy as a coach. Thank you for so much, coach Dungy. You had a huge impact on me both on and off the field. And your influence made us all better football players and better men.

"And finally a huge thank you to Jim Irsay and the Irsay family. Your generosity for putting this tribute together is nothing short of mind boggling. I am deeply, deeply humbled by the remarkable honor that the Colts family has bestowed upon me with their statue, retiring my number and inducting me into the legendary Colts' Ring of Honor.

"There is simply no way to audibly express what this all means to me. Again, thank you Indianapolis, thank you Indiana. I am proud to have been a citizen of this town, and as I told the world, a year and a half ago, I will always be a Colt. Thank you very much."

Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press

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