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Manning: right or wrong? 

End Zone

On a weekend when Colorado and Colorado State earned spots in the NCAA's March Madness, when the Rockies continued their task of reassembling a starting rotation, when the Nuggets and Avalanche continued their pushes toward the postseason, when the state's high school basketball tournaments reached their climax, and when college hockey playoffs began with three series within 70 miles of each other, the Front Range's unquestioned No. 1 sports story was ... none of those.

All of them had a few moments on center stage, but they didn't come close to captivating Colorado like the celebrity visitor who spent a few hours privately visiting Denver in search of a possible new home.

That would be Peyton Manning, of course.

From the moment that the Indianapolis Colts cut their Super Bowl-winning quarterback, followed by confirmation that Manning's first "interview" with another team would bring him to the Mile High City, Broncomaniacs quickly shifted from their usual offseason inertia mode to full-bore anticipation.

Tim Tebow? Who needs him, anyway? So what if the Broncos just made the playoffs and knocked off Pittsburgh in overtime? Who cares about all those comeback victories?

And so what if Manning might be one hit away from forced retirement? Same with Tebow, running as much as he does.

This is about being star-struck, and Denver's fans are dealing with that affliction. To them, this is the closest thing to bringing back John Elway for a history-defying encore.

Ah, Elway. You know that his presence, overseeing the franchise now, has to be the No. 1 reason why Manning would come to the Broncos. Elway reached his pinnacle of career-ending, consecutive Super Bowl victories at 37 and 38.

Manning will turn 36 on March 24.

Most likely, money is not the object here. After 14 years with the Colts, Manning already has made enough millions to fix up his great-grandkids for life. For him, it's all about one last run for a Super Bowl ring — or two. Especially since brother Eli just earned his second piece of jewelry with the New York Giants.

So if you're the Broncos, what do you do if Manning says he wants to wear orange again — Denver's going back to its home orange this year — even if it's a darker shade than he wore in college at Tennessee?

You tell him what Elway and head coach John Fox probably have: Whatever it takes. Even if it means trading Tebow to his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars. Even if it means reassembling other members of Manning's former cast, starting with tight end Dallas Clark and receiver Reggie Wayne. Perhaps center Jeff Saturday.

Sure, it would be a gamble. But every indication is that Manning is throwing with zip in workouts, and he'd be smart about not overextending too quickly.

Also, who could blame the Broncos for trying? As long as Elway and Fox are fully convinced that Manning has full medical clearance and won't be frighteningly fragile, there should be no hesitation.

Quite likely, Denver's strong running game last season is another lure for Manning, who remembers how well the Broncos could run (with Terrell Davis) during Elway's final glory years of the late 1990s. The more offensive balance Denver can have, the less burden on the quarterback to do everything.

Here's another thought: If Manning comes to town, the Broncos can keep Brady Quinn as backup. Quinn might be swayed by a chance to start for another team, but he could replace Manning someday — and serve as a good insurance policy in the meantime. Denver fans know how good Quinn looked through most of the preseason last year, faltering only in the exhibition finale at Arizona when he was surrounded by backups against many of the Cardinals' defensive regulars.

So let's not quibble about the details. If Manning wants to cast his lot with Denver, nobody can blame the Broncos for going all in.

And something tells me Denver would find a way to un-retire Frank Tripucka's No. 18 jersey — unless Manning wants to wear No. 16 as he did in college.

In fact, Peyton Manning could wear any number he wants in Denver.

Even if he wants to borrow No. 7.

routon@csindy.com

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