ENGLEWOOD — Indianapolis is a kid, laying out her clothes on the first day of school.
The city is hoping, wishing, praying it can make one final first impression on the cutest boy who ever walked these hallways:
He won't forget us, will he?
So the city is laying out its Sunday best for the occasion.
"My wife has a pink 18 jersey. She might wear it," Greg Ballard, the mayor of Indianapolis, told me Wednesday. "You will see a lot of Colts 18 jerseys on Sunday."
Don't confuse the relationship between Indy and Peyton with a sports story.
It's a love story.
That's why the words from Colts owner Jim Irsay stung like they did. They hurt, because all those No. 18 Colts jerseys that pack the downtown streets on game day are still their best clothes. They always will be.
They hurt, because this is the week Peyton goes back to Indianapolis.
They hurt, even if Peyton on Wednesday wouldn't acknowledge a cheap shot from Irsay that stirred resentment where there was none.
"I don't have any answer for you on that or any comment on that," he said.
Here's what Irsay said, in case you've been hiding under a rock alongside the Colts owner:
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this (a Super Bowl ring)."
Yada, yada, yada. There was some other careless stuff, too. By now you've seen it all.
There are myriad ways to interpret what Irsay meant by what he said.
But the question isn't what. The question is why.
Why say that, Jim?
Why say anything, ever, that could be taken the wrong way, by anyone, about the most beloved figure in the city's history? Not sports history. History.
"He touched so many peoples on so many levels - some you heard about, some you didn't," the mayor said. "That's why it was painful for people to see him (go)."
Over 14 seasons as the Indianapolis quarterback, he built the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. The popularity of his Colts teams built a 67,000-seat palace, hard on the edge of an underrated city center. The Broncos and Colts play at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
He brought Super Bowl XLVI to the city. He brought a Super Bowl ring to the city.
He gave the city its best clothes, a No. 18 Colts jersey, that will never go out of style.
"I've learned in life you need to be at peace with other people's decisions that affect you, that you have no control over," Manning said later. "I think that's been good advice that I've had over the years, and it's certainly served me well in this particular scenario."
This is Pat Bowlen lamenting John Elway's three Super Bowl losses instead of celebrating the two wins. How would that sit?
You just don't tear a hole in a city's best clothes.
"Boy, I sure did enjoy being their quarterback for 14 years," Manning said, repeating a line from the news conference in 2012 when he was cut by the Colts.
A gaggle of media swarmed Broncos headquarters at Dove Valley on Wednesday.
Peyton looked like he would rather be anywhere else but there — in a film room, a duck blind, a Papa John's commercial, anywhere else but there.
On the topic of Irsay, Peyton looked peeved.
I get the impression he was hurt, and he is mad, and I expect Peyton wants to hang 50 points on Irsay on Sunday night. You know, Star Wars numbers.
This was a love story, and now it feels like a breakup. First, the split was a product of circumstances, an arrangement that simply didn't work out. Their time together was special, but it had passed. The prototypical quarterback was replaced by the prototypical quarterback prospect, Andrew Luck.
With a few wrong words at the wrong time, now it has turned ugly.
Irsay said Wednesday he has put in a phone call to Manning.
No apology necessary, sir. The damage is done.
You stuck a grizzly with a hot poker.
"Any comments I make going forward will be about the football game," Manning said.
In Denver, he is Peyton Manning.
In Indy, he's just Peyton. He is theirs, and he gave the city its Sunday best.
The clown suit in the corner? That's reserved for the Colts owner.