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Peyton Manning: ‘Very classy’ Patriots fans ‘couldn’t have been nicer’ to me

12.04.11 at 5:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Peyton Manning, who has missed the entire season following neck surgery, did make the trip to Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s 31-24 Patriots win over his Colts.

While he didn’t take a snap, he did have quite a bit of interaction with Patriots fans, signing autographs for fans two hours before kickoff at the visitors’ tunnel entrance to the field.

“I’ll say this,” Manning said after the game outside the Patriots locker room, “I signed a lot of autographs before the game for Patriots fans before the game for a ton of Patriots fans, and they couldn’t have been nicer, all wishing me a healthy recovery, saying they miss seeing me out there playing. I appreciate that, I really do. I’ve had unbelievable support from my Colts fans and get a lot of mail, people saying they’re praying for me, I really do appreciate that.

“But coming from the fans of your biggest rival, and I’m sure some of these same fans have said some things maybe not so nice to me though years. But when they say some things very nice, I do appreciate it. It was very classy.”

While Manning was showed with love, Adam Vinatieri was booed each time he was on the field, including his 31-yard field goal in the second quarter and his three extra points in the fourth quarter.

Manning also spoke with Tom Brady before and after the game, and greeted Bill Belichick before the game.

“I saw Tom before the game and I just got to visit with him [after the game]. It was good to see him. I saw coach Belichick.”

As for the game, Manning provided emotional support to Dan Orlovsky as the Colts scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, as the Patriots had to recover an onside kick to seal the game with 30 seconds remaining.

“I’m always there if I have a thought or idea,” Manning said. “You just can’t help quite as much. It’s been a new role for me. I don’t think I’ve been doing very good because we haven’t won any games. I just try to be a resource for the guys.”

In the end, the Colts dropped to 0-12, and with Manning on the sidelines, are four games away from joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.

“It’s a learning experience,” Manning said. “Being 0-12 is frustrating for everyone in our building. I hate everything about it. As you could see today, our team continues to fight. I have nothing to complain about. I’ve had 20 years, since I was 15 years old, of incredible health. The fact I’ve had to miss all these games this year, there’s tons of players with tons of injuries that have missed more games.

“I’m thankful to the Lord for the years of health I’ve had. I hope my recovery heals and continues to make some type of progress. There’s no guarantees. I really have it in good perspective. I have two kids that kept great balance for me on what is important. So, it’s been a learning experience. I’ve really had a good attitude. I think everyone assumed I’d be miserable, I’d be that. But I’ve had a good attitude about trying to get healthier and help the team. But is it frustrating in our building every day? Sure it is.”

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Dan Orlovsky, Indianapolis Colts
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