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Tennessee to retire Manning's No. 16

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- NFL quarterback Peyton Manning returns
to his alma mater this weekend for a ceremony to retire the No. 16
he wore at Tennessee.

"I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a special honor
for me. It's a nice tribute," he said this week. "This is
probably one of the biggest honors, if not the biggest honor, that
I've received."

Manning is the most decorated athlete in school history, the
Southeastern Conference's all-time leading passer and a high
academic achiever. Last season he set a new NFL record with the
Indianapolis Colts for touchdown passes with 49.

He is the second player this season to have his number retired
in a new process established this year by the university. Reggie
White's No. 92 was retired earlier this season.

Defensive lineman Doug Atkins will have his No. 91 retired on
Nov. 19 at the Vanderbilt game.

Manning's ceremony will be held Saturday when the No. 23
Volunteers host South Carolina in Steve Spurrier's return to
Knoxville for the first time since 2000 as Florida's coach.

Manning will join the team and coach Phillip Fulmer on the Vol
Walk, a trip by foot to the stadium that includes traveling along
the campus street named Peyton Manning Pass.

"It's exciting for Peyton and for our program and our fans and
administration and everybody concerned to have this chance to honor
one of our greats from the past. To be a part of the ceremony is
really special," Fulmer said.

Manning said he will walk with the team and then "go tailgate a
little and then go to the game."

"I've not been back to a game in Knoxville for a long time
because I was usually going to see [brother] Eli, so this is going
to be fun."

Four former Vols who died in World War II had their numbers
retired in 1946, but the university shunned the idea of starting
the practice again until this year.

Athletic director Mike Hamilton helped establish criteria that
include major honors during college and professional careers. Any
players currently wearing the numbers that are being retired will
be allowed to keep them until they end their college careers.

Manning's jersey was retired in 1998 at the Orange and White
game hours after he was taken as the first pick in the NFL draft.

Manning remains a fan favorite, particularly after he decided to
come back for his senior season in 1997. He returns to campus at
times in the offseason to meet with players and for charity
fund-raisers.

"It's a special place. They really embraced me when I got there
and adopted me as one of their own even though I was from New
Orleans. The people are what make up the state and they've treated
me well," Manning said.

The Colts are off this week before playing at New England on
Nov. 7.