The hardest thing for an athlete to do is take off the uniform for the last time. And if you’re fortunate enough to play for a long time, the harder it is. So you have an idea what this day was like for Peyton.

There were a lot of opinions out there that he should have retired after last season. But he came back for another season, and you couldn’t have asked for a better ending than winning the Super Bowl with the Broncos.

This time, though, the timing is right.

Like he said he would do after the Super Bowl, Peyton took his time and did not make an emotional decision.

Everybody wanted him to say something the night of the Super Bowl or the next day or whenever. But he took a few weeks and figured it out.

It was his decision, too. Some people seem to think I’m pulling the strings or something, but Peyton’s a big boy who will be 40 later this month. He’s made a lot of decisions without me.

We were lucky enough to have Cooper, Eli and their families in New Orleans a few days ago for the dedication of the Manning Family Complex at Newman, along with the tribute to (former Newman football coach) Tony Reginelli. It was the first time in two years we’d all been together like that, and it was really special.

The boys got to play golf together, and they even let me come along with them.

But we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about whether Peyton should retire. I just told him I was sure he would figure it out and that he had my support and any help I could give.

He went back to Denver and talked with Ashley a little more before making the final call, which is the way it should be.

I’ve got to say is that the Broncos and the people of Denver have been great to Peyton, both about this and for the entire four years. A lot of people thought he might never play again after having four neck surgeries and then getting his heart broken by the team where he’d spent 14 great years with a lot of tremendous memories.

But he wound up transitioning to a new city, and in four years they won 50 games, four division titles, made it to two Super Bowls and won one.

It was a wonderful experience. But the Broncos made it clear they were ready to move on.

I think that if Peyton felt he could stay healthy, he might have come back for another season somewhere else, but only if the right opportunity had been there.

Last year was very frustrating to him because of the injuries, as much because he couldn’t run any more than anything else. Going to a new city with a new coach and new system and the chance of more injuries would just have been too much to ask.

So this part is over.

Peyton’s certainly had a tremendous career.

People ask me what was my favorite game. I’d say it was the 2006 AFC championship game when the Colts came from behind to beat New England and go to the Super Bowl for the first time.

People were literally running in the streets of Indianapolis that night, and that’s a pretty wound-tight downtown.

He holds so many records. One I know he certainly doesn’t mind sharing is being tied with Brett Favre with the most victories as a starting quarterback.

But one that won’t show up is his coming out of the bullpen in the last game this season to beat San Diego. That made Denver the No. 1 seed instead of the No. 5 seed, and it helped make going to the Super Bowl possible.

Without it, Von Miller wouldn’t be on “Dancing With the Stars.” I know Peyton is glad he could make that happen.

I also know a lot of people are wondering what’s next on the horizon for Peyton.

It’s hard to say. He’s going to have a lot of options both inside and outside of football.

He might take a little time away from the game to spend time with his family. I know he’s in demand as a public speaker, and he’s really good at it. Maybe he’ll even do “Saturday Night Live” again.

Whatever he does, Peyton will take his time and be thorough, like he always is.

Olivia and I are certainly hoping Peyton, Ashley and the twins can spend more time in New Orleans. He hasn’t been able to do that a lot, but he loves New Orleans. It’s his home.

You wouldn’t believe how many high school friends came out for the Super Bowl. And when he’s here, Peyton loves to get in the car and ride around, just to see the houses of his old friends.

We’ve had so many people congratulating us in the last few days. They tell us not only have they enjoyed Peyton’s career, but also seeing the kind of person he’s been, especially because of all of the good things he’s done to help people in different places. With some of the things going on the last few weeks, that’s really appreciated.

I haven’t commented much about it, but when there’s a lot of bad talk out there about your son, it hurts your heart. I know what kind of good person Peyton is and the good he’s done for others. That’s what matters. We’re very proud of him, as we are Cooper and Eli.

As a father, I can tell you one of the greatest rewards is to see your children grow into what you hope they can be.

Cooper was 42 on Sunday, Peyton is about to turn 40 and Eli is 35. They’re all married with kids and have done so well.

And even more than that, they all get along, even though you might not know it from watching some of those old home movies.

That’s one reason we have the Manning Passing Academy (in the summers in Thibodaux). It’s a chance for us all to have fun together while maybe helping the game we love.

Peyton thanked a lot of people today for their support over the years, and Olivia and I want to do that, too.

We are truly blessed to have so much joy in our lives.