INDIANAPOLIS When Peyton Manning sees his name alongside some of the great players in NFL history, he beams with pride.
Manning's phenomenal season earned him his second straight Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player Award and he came within one vote of being a unanimous choice. He joined the likes of Joe Montana, John Unitas, Steve Young and Kurt Warner as quarterbacks with two MVP awards. Brett Favre is the only player to win it three times.
''I've thought of myself as something of a (football) historian and someone who appreciates those names,'' Manning said Monday. ''Just being with those names makes it more special and I am very humbled to be on that list.''
The Indianapolis Colts star, who surpassed Dan Marino and Steve Young with his passing prowess in 2004, earned all but one of 48 votes from a national panel of sports writers and broadcasters. Manning tied with Steve McNair for the award last season, but this time only Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick drew a vote.
Ever the team man, and ever championship-oriented, Manning refuses to concentrate on his statistics. He threw for 49 touchdowns, surpassing Dan Marino's 20-year-old NFL record. And he shattered Young's passer rating record with a 121.1 mark. And he established other league marks and a bunch more team records.
But to Manning, unless it all culminates in a championship, it's not what he's after.
''What I accomplished is something special teamwise,'' he said. ''Obviously it helps that the team is winning games, and good things come along with that.''
Such good things as leading the Colts to a 12-4 regular-season record and the AFC South title. They routed Denver 49-24 in the first round of the playoffs the MVP voting was held before the postseason and play at New England on Sunday.
He also turned two of his previously unaccomplished receivers, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, into threats almost on a par with Manning's favorite target, perennial Pro Bowler Marvin Harrison. All caught at least 10 touchdown passes and went over 1,000 yards in receiving an unprecedented combination for three teammates.
''If you told me we'd have 49 touchdown passes and break Dan Marino's record, I'd have been the last person to tell you that,'' Manning said. ''It's been a fun ride.''
Sure has, one of the most fun in NFL history.
''When I came here three years ago, my reputation preceded me,'' said Colts coach Tony Dungy, considered a defensive mentor while at Tampa Bay. ''There was the thought we'd win games 10-6. I'd like to thank him for making us an offensive team.''
Manning tends to make everything look easy. Sort of like Young and Montana and Unitas and Warner and Favre did. But all of them have that championship along with their MVPs. Manning doesn't.
And it drives him to do even more.
''I try to do my job and help my team win games,'' he said. ''That's what it's been about for us all along.''
Manning is the first Indianapolis player to win MVP. When the Colts were in Baltimore, the award was won by Unitas (1964 and '67), Gino Marchetti (1958), Earl Morrall (1968) and Bert Jones (1976).
''It's difficult to pick one player out of the league and determine who is the most valuable,'' Dungy said. ''Peyton sets the tempo for us. We ask a lot of him and he's certainly delivered.''
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