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Manning watch fuels speculation

March 11, 2012

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— The Peyton Manning stakeout moved to Arizona on Saturday, even though there was no sign of the superstar in the desert.

Manning spent nearly six hours at the Denver Broncos’ facility on Friday, and speculation was high that the Cardinals would be his next stop.

The Cardinals’ facility was a bee hive of activity as the setting for Kurt Warner’s annual “Ultimate Football Experience,” a fundraiser for his First Things First foundation that features current and past football stars. Among them was Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who said he knew nothing of any contact the team may have made with Manning.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said.

The presence of Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers in the game, is considered a major reason Manning would consider the Cardinals, who finished last season 7-2 after a 1-6 start to wind up 8-8.

The team has already invested millions in quarterback Kevin Kolb and is scheduled to pay him $7 million if he is on the roster Thursday. The Cardinals, though, had more success with second-year quarterback John Skelton starting than with Kolb, who missed much of the season due to turf toe and a concussion.

After an emotional farewell in Indianapolis, Manning has swiftly moved to find a new home, reportedly with a Tuesday deadline. After a series of neck surgeries, he has reported good progress in regenerating the nerves and regaining his masterful passing ability.

He received a high-profile welcome in Denver.

According to The Denver Post, the Broncos sent a plane to pick up Manning in South Florida, where he has a condo. He had traveled there after an emotional news conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday, when he said goodbye to the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998 and he led to the 2007 Super Bowl championship.

The plane then stopped in Stillwater, Okla., where Broncos vice president of football operations and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders were watching Oklahoma State’s pro day. The Broncos management met up with Manning, and everyone flew back to Denver.

ESPNews carried live coverage of the flight arriving at an airport in Denver, then also followed Manning’s car ride to Broncos headquarters. And while Manning met with Elway & Co. inside the building, a blue helicopter hovered overhead.

Just where he was on Saturday was a mystery, with the Cardinals staying silent about anything to do with Manning. The Kansas City Chiefs also have expressed interest, but there was no known scheduled visit there.

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