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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With the Lombardi Trophy in his hand, Peyton Manning got everything he wanted from Super Bowl 50. And more. After the Broncos upset Carolina, the old Denver quarterback hugged his kids, cemented his place in NFL history, then with a smile that would not quit, politely told everybody who doubted him to kiss his ... ring.

"I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family," Manning said Sunday night, during an on-field interview with CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson. "I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight ... I promise you that."

Sorry, Bud. I don't drink bad beer. In the hours after the Broncos' 24-10 victory, however, I sat on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, listened to the waves crash, raised a glass of red wine and toasted the most important thing I learned about No. 18 during the four seasons he played quarterback in Denver:

Manning is one ruthless competitor.

WATCH:Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 highlights

Yes, Manning makes us laugh by singing off-key about chicken parm. But stop with all these odes to his grace and charm. Please. Let me tell you: All the great ones, from Michael Jordan to Serena Williams, apply an unhealthy obsession to feats we stand up and cheer as heroic. The magic of Manning is in hiding it.


He would not earn a league-record 200 victories in the regular-season and playoffs without that deep-seeded need for winning. He would not have endured the humiliation of getting benched, and swallowed his pride during six weeks when a torn plantar fascia sidelined him to remake his game and finally accept the Broncos weren't all about him any more.

OK, Manning writes thank-you notes to retired players and sympathy cards to cancer patients. That's real, genuine and cool. But do not be fooled. On the football field, however, he will rip your heart out, Cam.

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As gold confetti fell on the Broncos in victory, Manning gave Papa John the pizza king a big bro hug. But there has been frost on the relationship between John Elway and Manning since the boss slashed his veteran quarterback's salary last winter.

There was something during a recent and otherwise innocent conversation with Archie Manning that rang true about America's first family of quarterbacks. It was mentioned that his two sons went to dinner in California on the Tuesday before the showdown against Carolina. Eli Manning volunteered that he picked up the check for his big brother.

"Good of him," said Archie, praising Eli in a sweet southern drawl. "He signed a big contract last year; he ought to do that. Peyton got (a pay) cut."

PARADE: Details of the Broncos' celebration on Tuesday

America's first family of quarterbacks hangs together, and the Manning boys do not forget any slight. They do not get mad. They get even. When Charlie Sly tried to link the Denver quarterback to human growth hormone, Manning sent private investigators knocking on the door of the Sly family home three days before Christmas.

Manning was long accused of being too much in love with style points. You know the rap. "Star Wars" numbers, playoff chokes and all that.

But during the warm-ups for Super Bowl 50, I watched Manning do high-knee raises with quick chop steps to fire the big muscles in his thighs before tossing practice throws. It reminded me how the veteran quarterback had completely reshaped his technique with the acceptance his throwing arm was shot and he needed to drive the football with his legs to complete even the simplest of NFL passes.

The NFL is more beer than poetry, and it's only a sonnet if you have a taste for blood and guts in your iambic pentameter. Manning might be the first player to win a championship from a rocking chair.

Yes, his stats stunk, and for long stretches of the game, all Manning managed was a four-corner offense. He milked the clock and got out of linebacker Von Miller's way. It wasn't pretty. But, in the end, the victory was worth a $2 million bonus, on top of the $2 million bonus he got for reaching the Super Bowl. So Manning won back the $4 million pay cut that Elway took from him.

Time will forget his 13 completions against Carolina. History will celebrate him for being the oldest quarterback to triumph in the Super Bowl. Manning has earned a championship ring to match the one he previously won with the Indianapolis Colts.

"Being on two different teams, winning a Super Bowl with each team, I'm proud of that," he said.

Ask me for the top five quarterbacks to play the game, and I say: 1) Joe Montana, 2) Otto Graham, 3) Johnny Unitas, 4) Peyton Manning and 5) Sammy Baugh.

There is a photo from the celebration on the field at Levi's Stadium that you need to see. Standing smack middle in the uniquely American circus that is the Super Bowl, there was Manning, above the fray, with a bemused look on his face that quietly shouts:

How do you like me now?

That's as real as Manning gets.

Mark Kiszla: , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @markkiszla

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.