Peyton Manning was trying to focus on practice Wednesday. (Ed Andrieski / AP)

The return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis went from emotional hype to full-blown soap opera, with Colts owner Jim Irsay denying that he was taking a cheap shot at Manning and Manning … not saying much at all and yet speaking volumes.

The owner, whose team has a Manning tribute planned for the “Sunday Night Football” game against the Denver Broncos, even took the step of calling Manning, ESPN reported. And Manning, when offered a chance to address Irsay’s comments to USA Today, the ones that Broncos Coach John Fox had called a “cheap shot”?

“I don’t have any answer for you on that,” Manning told reporters, “or any comment on any of that.”

He wouldn’t tell a familiar face, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz, whether he resented Irsay, either. “To answer a question like that doesn’t serve me well,” he told Kravitz. “I feel like the question is based on the [Irsay] comments, so it’s just easier not to answer anything along those lines.”


Manning went the Shecky route, preferring to joke about his return to Indy rather than say whether he was stung that Irsay expressed disappointment at winning only one Super Bowl with Manning. As he always does when he’s turning on the disarming Southern charm, Manning threw younger brother Eli Manning under the bus.

“Somebody asked me earlier, is this kind of like playing against Eli, and I said I know Robert Mathis hits harder than Eli,” he said to laughter. “I can guarantee you that.”

Still, his return brings back reminders and a rehash of just how it all ended — regardless of the number of Super Bowl rings he won. Irsay told ESPN that his “comments were organizational comments; they weren’t on Peyton or anything else. You look in the past, we spent as much as 70 percent on the offensive side of the ball. Seventy percent of the [salary] cap. Really it’s more talking about how you build a championship team to win multiple championships.”

Manning admitted to Kravitz that he doesn’t know how he’ll feel Sunday and joked that he didn’t know how to find the Lucas Oil Stadium visitors’ locker room. He’s doing to get a warm welcome, but what happens next is anybody’s guess. “He thinks he’s ready for all the hype and the love that will shower down upon him. But he’s not completely sure,” Kravitz writes. “He prepares for everything, but how do you prepare for this?”


Andrew Luck: “We’re not ignorant. We know who’s coming to town.”

Fox says Irsay took “a cheap shot”

Tony Dungy says Irsay is making the return of Manning “personal”

Manning: “I’ll always be a Colt”