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If this was Eli Manning’s last hurrah, he went out with a win and plenty of emotion

“It’s a special day, a special win and one I’ll remember,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Sunday. (Adam Hunger/AP)

If this was Eli Manning’s final start at home for the New York Giants, fans at MetLife Stadium wanted to make sure the quarterback knew his contributions to the franchise were greatly appreciated.

Manning received several ovations and chants of “Eli! Eli!” as the Giants beat the Miami Dolphins, 36-20, on Sunday. The 38-year-old quarterback, who started in place of the injured Daniel Jones, was greeted by his family as he left the field, making for an emotional scene in the Meadowlands.

Giants Coach Pat Shurmur put backup quarterback Alex Tanney in the game with under two minutes left, which meant Manning would get a moment to bask in the adoration of fans as he trotted to the sideline. Shurmur later gave the game ball to Manning, who reacted to the moment in typically understated fashion but did flash a large grin as he was mobbed by teammates in the locker room.

Asked at a postgame news conference what was going through his mind as he departed the field to such acclaim, Manning said: “Obviously, I don’t know what the future is. I don’t know what lies next week, let alone down the road."

He continued: “Obviously, the support and the fans, their ovation, chanting my name from the first snap to the end, I appreciate that. I appreciate them always and all my teammates coming up to me. It’s a special day, a special win and one I’ll remember.”

In his 16th season with the Giants, Manning was reduced to backup status for the first time since his rookie year after he was benched for Jones in Week 3. But Jones, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, injured his ankle this month. That opened the door for Manning to start a Week 14 road game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He remained in the lineup this week as Jones continued to recover.

Manning’s final statistics Sunday — 283 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing but also three interceptions — paint the picture of the kind of uneven performance he often submitted in recent seasons. However, he finished the game strong, completing 12 of 14 second-half passes for 167 yards, a touchdown and an interception as he rallied New York from a 10-7 halftime deficit.

That gave Giants fans something to cheer for in what otherwise was a desultory matchup between their beleaguered squad and the equally downtrodden Dolphins. Both teams are now 3-11.

“It’s good to be able to have Eli out there playing with us and help lead us to a victory,” Shurmur said. “He’s certainly done many, many good things here for many, many years. For him to enjoy leading us to a victory, should feel real special for him because of who he is.”

Manning has led the Giants to two of their four Super Bowl titles and is the franchise leader in almost all major passing categories, most by wide margins.

Now Manning, who improved his personal career record as a starter to 117-117, is in the final year of his contract and has already ceded the starting job to a promising young successor. It is unclear whether he will retire after this season, but barring some very unexpected developments he is not expected to be back as the Giants’ starter.

“What makes it easier to retire is when you’re hurt,” Manning’s father, Archie, said, according to the New York Post, before mentioning one of Eli Manning’s brothers, Peyton Manning. “A lot of people don’t have a choice, they get cut. That made it much easier in Peyton’s case, he was hurt. It was time. Eli feels great.

“I’ll support Eli whatever he wants to do — he’s pretty good in thinking through things. He’ll do the right thing."

Manning may get another chance to start for the Giants this season if the team decides to shelve Jones and avert the possibility of a worse injury, but Jones was participating in limited practices this week and appears on track to start the final two games of the season, including a home game in Week 17.

“I know Daniel’s getting close to getting ready and getting better. We’ll see what his status is,” Manning told reporters. “I get it either way. I know they want to get him back and get him more experience and more reps and everything. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’ll do it.”

Manning was asked if he was close to shedding tears at the end of Sunday’s game. “Maybe, maybe,” he responded. He also told reporters it was special to share the day with more than a few members of his family.

“I don’t remember my dad playing at all. He retired when I was 4 years old,” Manning said. “… So I try to bring my kids around as much as possible, bring them to some games. I know my youngest son won’t remember any of it, but we’ll at least have a picture to show him one day.”

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