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'Other' Manning will get warm welcome

| Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's a strange vibe on the streets of Indianapolis this week: Welcome home, Eli.

It seems many residents want New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning to feel just as comfortable inside Lucas Oil Stadium as his more celebrated older brother so that the city's hated rivals -- the New England Patriots -- go home a loser in the Super Bowl.

Take it away, Eli. It's up to you to defend Peyton's place.

"I've been hearing it since before the championship games," said Mark Miles, the Super Bowl host committee chairman. "Folks understand the (Colts-Patriots) rivalry, and I'd say it's a safe bet that the Giants fans will outnumber the Patriots fans next week."

It may not look that way during the game since high-priced tickets usually prevent either team from gaining home-field advantage. But this is a unique situation, and around town there's little doubt who Colts fans will be rooting for.

From those who considered making T-shirts that read something along the lines of "I'm a Giants fan -- this week" to former Colts players stunned to see New England invading their secluded team complex, the reaction is pretty much the same: anybody but the Patriots.

What advice can Peyton give his little brother about playing in the house he built• Apparently not much.

"I don't think he's ever been the away team in his own stadium," Eli joked.

Yet because there's a local connection through the Manning clan, Indy fans can keep their rooting interests all in the family. Peyton, of course, has won his NFL-record four MVPs with the Colts, brought the city its first Super Bowl title after the 2006 season and has produced all but two of the team's 23 wins in their new stadium.

The family patriarch, Archie, has become one of the city's favorite sons. He shows up for Peyton's annual bowling tournament and other charity events and even was planning to be in town for next Sunday's pregame tailgate party early in the season. It just seemed like the perfect time and place for a family reunion.

"We know the scene, where we want to go, where to eat, that sort of thing," said Cooper Manning, the eldest of the three brothers. "It's not going to be as unorganized as it normally is at the Super Bowl, and I think it will be comfortable."

For Giants fans, that is. At The Collector's Den, a sports and entertainment memorabilia shop inside the city's downtown mall, one store employee has been catching grief about the framed, autographed Tom Brady jersey that sits in the front window. It sells for $2,500. On Thursday, the signed Eli Manning jersey finally arrived -- with a price tag of $700.

Next week, when fans start arriving, things could get ugly.

"We'll have all those people from New York coming in, and they'll really get into it -- and the Boston people, too, because they'll have that thick accent, too," said Brian Yoxall, a sales rep for the store who doesn't anticipate anything more than good-natured ribbing.

Patriots fans can take solace in one thing.

"The Brady jersey will probably generate more interest," Yoxall said, "because he's won three Super Bowls, and Eli has won one."

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