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During an emotional news conference in which both Peyton Manning and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay fought back tears, the team announced the conclusion of Manning’s playing career with the only franchise he’s known in his NFL career.

Unlock HQ Video HQ video delivered by Akamai “For 14 wonderful years, the only pro football I’ve known is Colts football,” Manning said during Wednesday’s news conference.

“My team won a lot of games here, I played with so many great players here. … Times change, circumstances change and that’s the reality of playing in the NFL.”

Manning added: “Our circumstances make it best for us to take this next step. It certainly has not been easy for me.”

The Colts’ decision to part ways with the four-time MVP, who has thrown for over 54,000 career yards with 399 touchdown, did not come as a surprise, as it had been the subject of rampant speculation for months. Manning missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing season-ending neck surgery the week before the start of the regular season. and he was due a $28 million roster bonus if he still was on the Colts, a team currently in rebuilding mode with a new coach and general manager, at the start of the league year.

Unlock HQ Video HQ video delivered by Akamai Manning said that he’s been preparing for this moment for some time, and that there never was a moment during which he found himself lobbying to remain a Colt. There also was not a decisive moment in his talks with Irsay, Manning said, that sealed this decision.

“We covered all sorts of scenarios. These circumstances are not what either of us wish they were, but that’s the reality,” Manning said. ” … I am at peace with it.”

Throughout the news conference, Irsay and Manning went to great lengths to hammer home the sense that this was an amicable break up, and that neither party harbored any ill will. Irsay even said that he wanted to see the four-time league MVP spend his final football years playing for a contender.

“As a franchise, where we are right now with the salary cap, we’re a few years away,” Irsay said. “I want to see him come back and play great. There’s no question about it. It’s just here, just like in 2001 when he was completely healthy and we didn’t have everyone to surround him. I just want to see him succeed at the end of his career.”

Wednesday’s news conference was just as much about celebrating Manning’s tenure in Indianapolis.

“I think the No. 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colts player on the field,” Irsay said. “This process has been a long, difficult process. I know Peyton and I have had numerous conversations over the months. … We tried to put each other in each other’s shoes, and tried to realize what the situation was for the franchise what it was for Peyton. … In the end, the circumstances were too difficult to overcome.”

The divorce marks the end of a remarkably successful marriage between a player and team. Manning started every meaningful game for 13 seasons in Indianapolis — 227 in a row, including the playoffs — and took the Colts from perennial also-ran to one of the NFL’s model franchises and the 2007 Super Bowl title.

In the two decades predating his arrival, the Colts won 116 games, one division title and made the playoffs three times. With Manning taking snaps, the Colts have won 150 games, eight division titles, two AFC championships. He broke all of the franchise’s major career passing records, previously held by Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas.

Indianapolis broke the NFL record for most regular-season wins in a decade (115), and tied Dallas’ mark for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine).

Manning said he hasn’t thought about where he’ll play next season, but he did tell reporters that he was not going to retire.

Wherever Manning ends up, however, he stressed that his heart always will remain in Indianapolis.

“I’ll always be a Colt,” Manning said. “I always will be. That will never change.”