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Mannings Miss Flight but Catch History

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2004; Page D12

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 26 -- When Peyton Manning threw his record-breaking 49th touchdown pass of the season Sunday in a 34-31 overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers, his father, Archie Manning, was watching from just behind the end zone -- after a frazzling day of travel to this snowy city.

Manning, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback, and his wife, Olivia, were late arrivals at the RCA Dome, getting to the game with only eight minutes left in regulation. They had a 6 a.m. flight from their home in New Orleans to catch a connecting flight to Memphis that would have gotten them here in plenty of time to see the entire game.

Colts' Peyton Manning, left, greets his father, Archie, after a defeat of the Chargers in which Manning set a new NFL single-season mark for TD passes. (Michael Conroy -- AP)

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But when they arrived at the airport, their Northwest flight stayed on the ground because only two of the three flight attendants had shown up. When the third arrived, there was another delay because the plane had to be de-iced after a New Orleans snowstorm. When they finally got to Memphis, they had missed their connecting flight.

"We were going to watch the game in the Memphis airport," Archie said.

But when team owner Jim Irsay learned the Mannings had been stranded, he sent a private jet to Memphis. A family of four from Zachary, La., also had planned to attend the game and was stranded with the Mannings in Memphis. Archie said two of the children were wearing Colts jerseys, and when he asked Irsay if the family of Colts fans could get on the plane, too, Irsay told Archie to bring them along.

"I was calm, I didn't fuss, I don't do that," Archie said of his delay in New Orleans with "North-worst Airlines," ". . . but that dadgum attendant being late really messed it up. We got here with eight minutes left. But that was the best part of the game.

"Sure, it was emotional for us [when Peyton broke Dan Marino's touchdown record]. And it will always be special to Peyton, when he can think about it after the season. It'll be doubly special 10 or 15 years from now because he got it in a comeback win. Comeback wins are what quarterbacks always remember, so there's a double dip for him, a win and the record.

"As his parents, we're very proud of Peyton, and not just about football. He's gone about his business in a way that as a parent makes you very proud."

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