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Tuesday, January 14
Manning decides to stay at Mississippi

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- Just like his big brother, Eli Manning is going to complete his college career before heading to the NFL.

Manning announced Tuesday he will return for his senior season at Mississippi, instead of entering the NFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback was expected to be a first-round selection had he made himself available for April's draft.

Manning's brother, Peyton, made a similar choice in 1997, when he chose to return to Tennessee for his senior year. Peyton Manning ended up being the first pick in the draft the next year by the Indianapolis Colts.

Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer of Southern California and Marshall's Byron Leftwich are expected to be the first two quarterbacks taken in this year's draft.

Manning indicated that he spoke with Peyton and his father, Archie, a star quarterback at Ole Miss from 1968-70, before making his decision.

"I plan to be a good leader, so everybody needs to be ready to go to work,'' Manning said Tuesday in a statement released by the university.

A spokesman for the Ole Miss athletic department said Manning was declining interview requests.

The final day for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Manning holds 24 school records, including most career passing yards (6,519) and touchdown passes (52), despite only two seasons as a starter.

Manning redshirted his first season at Ole Miss, then served as Romaro Miller's backup for a season.

"I've really been impressed with the way Eli has handled this very difficult decision,'' Rebels coach David Cutcliffe said. "He is an outstanding person and player.''

Manning's numbers weren't as good last season as they were in his sophomore year, but he still broke his own school record for passing yards with 3,401. He threw for 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2002, and had an efficiency rating of 125.2.

The Rebels went 7-6, and beat Nebraska in the Independence Bowl. Manning ended his junior season with 315 yards passing against the Cornhuskers.

He petitioned the NFL Advisory Committee to find out where he might be drafted and received a first-round rating. Archie Manning, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, said he used his numerous contacts to provide additional information for his youngest son.

A message left at Archie Manning's New Orleans office was not immediately returned.

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