Last updated: February 16. 2013 2:19PM - 72 Views

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are treating their visit to Chicago on Thursday night just like any other preseason opener.


Only, it isn't.


This marks the four-time MVP's first game of any sort since Jan. 30, 2011, when he went 2-for-5 for 12 yards and an interception in the AFC's 55-41 loss to the NFC in the Pro Bowl.


"I think he's anxious to get in there, just like all of our starters," coach John Fox said Tuesday.


Anybody who wants to see Manning's first game in 18 months had better tune in early because he won't have much more than a cameo appearance at Soldier Field.


"Well, we don't get into how much we're going to do but we'll approach it much like any first preseason games," Fox said. "Our first unit will go the first quarter — about — and the seconds will go the second and third quarters, and the third will finish out the fourth quarter."


That's fine with Manning.


"We'd like to get a drive or two going," Manning said. "I've always said you love to get a bit of everything in the preseason if you can. You love to get some short-yardage work, some third-down conversions, you'd love to get some red zone, goal line. In all four games, if you can get all the situations that we work on out here, that would be ideal.


"So, however long we play, or whatever Coach Fox wants to do, we're good with. We just need to play well when we're out there."


Manning missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful release from the Indianapolis Colts that set off the biggest free agent frenzy in NFL history. He landed in Denver and hasn't looked back.


Throughout offseason workouts, minicamp and training camp with the Broncos, Manning has had plenty of zip on his passes and he's been as accurate and cerebral as ever.


Even Tuesday, when he had his share of incompletions against an ever-improving, first-string defense, Manning was sharp in his decisions.


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