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AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Out on a high note.
PAY TON MANNING

39-year-old Peyton Manning will retire from the NFL with the most career earnings of any player

By Mike Murphy

This post has been corrected.

Coming off a season where he became the oldest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning will not be returning to the field next year. The 39-year-old will be retiring, the NFL announced today (Mar. 6).

Among the myriad records that Manning holds as he retires is an important one for his post-NFL career: According to Spotrac, a site that tracks and analyses contracts in professional sports, Peyton Manning has earned over $248 million in his 18-year career. ESPN’s Andrew Brandt says that’s the most of any NFL player ever.

Manning, who played college football at the University of Tennessee and was the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft, played 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and four seasons with the Denver Broncos. He won his first Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007, and followed up nearly a decade later with his second this past season. Despite missing the entire 2011 season with a neck injury, Manning will retire with the records for the most yards thrown by a quarterback, the most games won, the most passing touchdowns completed, the most touchdowns in a season, and the most MVP awards—among many others.

Manning is credited with revolutionizing the way that quarterbacks approach American football. Unlike many quarterbacks before him, he was able to read how defenses were lining up against his team and make adjustments on the fly, calling out orders to his teammates—often with his famously nonsensical “Omaha” call. His nickname was “the sheriff,” for the way that he was able to “lay down the law” in opposing teams’ stadiums and outwit defensive coordinators across the league. As Adam Kilgore in the Washington Post recently put it:

Manning changed how quarterbacks play. In a response to football’s rising complexity, Manning made the position as much about thinking as action. He distilled endless preparation into a flawless dissection of an opposing defense. Manning’s skills and habits made playing quarterback as much about what the quarterback can see before the play as what he can do during.

In recent years, Manning had faded on the field somewhat behind other modern greats of the game, such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but has seemingly appeared in commercials for just about every product on television. As well as being the highest paid NFL player of all time, he’s also making the most off the field for his endorsements, ranging from deals with Nike and Gatorade, to Nationwide insurance and Papa John’s pizza (although Manning seems to be more a fan of chicken parmigiana sandwiches). Manning earned $12 million in endorsements last season alone, according to Forbes.

Following in Peyton’s footsteps, as he has for most of his career, his younger brother Eli Manning will now take over as the highest-paid active player in the NFL with career earnings of $187 million, according to Spotrac.

Correction (Mar. 6): A previous version of this post misstated Manning’s age: he is 39 years old.