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Peyton Manning Retires, Maria Sharapova Fails Drug Test


All right. So if you are sick of politics, we have a couple of big sports stories for you today. First, one of pro football's greatest players is saying goodbye to the game. Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning announced his retirement 18 years after playing his first game in the NFL and a month after winning the Super Bowl.

Also today, a major announcement from top-ranked tennis player Maria Sharapova. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman is following both stories, and he is with me now in the studio. So Tom, let's talk about Peyton Manning. I hear he made the announcement at a news conference. He's known for control on the field, but we saw a different side of him today.



GOLDMAN: From the beginning, when he stepped to the microphone, Manning spoke like he had a big lump in his throat. He never cried, but he got close as he talked about all the people, so many people in 18 years and really before the NFL and college - the people that helped shape his career. And it's a career, as you say, that will be defined by control.

He was like a coach at the line of scrimmage - actually like a coach and an orchestra conductor. Those who watched him will remember the wild waving of the arms, you know, screaming out real and imagined plays. Omaha, Omaha - remember that? - one of those audibles that captured the country's imagination a couple of years ago. He said don't believe the pundits who described him as some genius in shoulder pads. He said his success was just as much a function of hard work.


PEYTON MANNING: Because every moment, every drop of sweat, every bleary-eyed night of preparation, every note I took and every frame of film I watched was about one thing - reverence for this game.

GOLDMAN: You hear a little sniffle there.


GOLDMAN: That approach to the game, Kelly, is a reason he's considered a lock for the Hall of Fame.

MCEVERS: Well, let's talk about all the records and the accomplishments. There are so many of them, yeah?

GOLDMAN: There certainly are. His team's the Indianapolis Colts, and the Denver Broncos made the playoffs 15 of his 18 years. He won two Super Bowls, most recently last month against Carolina. There were critics who said he should've gotten to and won more Super Bowls. He even had a tag as a guy who couldn't deliver consistently in the postseason. OK, if that's true, he still has to be one of the best, if not the best, regular-season quarterbacks in history, and the numbers back that up. He was the all-time leader in touchdown passes, passing yards, wins by a quarterback.

MCEVERS: So why retire now?

GOLDMAN: You know, this is what he was looking at. He turned - turns 40 this month - declining skills, injuries that kept him out of action for nearly half of this past regular season. Also, there's the possibility of him playing as a back-up, kind of a slow death, and they don't like that when they've been a starter their whole career.

And for the first time, he was facing off-field controversy - an allegation from 20 years ago at the University of Tennessee about possible sexual harassment which he denied again in the press conference today, an investigation into alleged use of the banned substance human growth hormone. He was asked why now and whether any of these factors played a bigger role than others. He kept it close to the vest - said only, it was time.

MCEVERS: OK. Let's get to Maria Sharapova. The former No. 1 ranked tennis player had her own news conference today to say she tested positive for a banned substance. Tom, what can you tell us about that?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, 28 years old, winner of five Grand Slam singles titles - she failed a doping test at this year's Australian Open in January. She said she takes full responsibility for that failed test. She said for the past 10 years, she's been taking a medicine legally that was not banned, but the medicine was just put on the prohibited list by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which Sharapova said she wasn't aware of. The drug is meldonium - used to treat heart issues. Sharapova says she started taking it after she had some irregular EKGs. The International Tennis Federation says it will provisionally suspend her until they figure out what the final penalty will be.

MCEVERS: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman on the retirement of Peyton Manning and an admission by Maria Sharapova that she took a banned substance. Thank you so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.