DENVER -- Just three years removed from spinal fusion surgery, in what has been a remarkable restart to his NFL career as the Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning passed Brett Favre for the league's record for career touchdown passes Sunday night with his 509th career scoring pass in front of a national prime-time audience.
Manning stands alone at the top of the list after an 8-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 3:09 remaining in the first half. The pass gave the Broncos a 21-3 lead in the game.
"I thought before the play I might have a chance,'' Thomas said. " ... I just wanted to make sure I got my feet down. I'm grateful for the chance.''
"I've discussed with some family and friends recently that [I] certainly didn't think this would even be a possibility a couple of years ago," Manning said after the game. " ... I'm really enjoying playing here, playing for this organization."
Of the record-setting touchdown, tight end Jacob Tamme said, "Everyone wanted 509, everyone wanted that one. ... Just the way Payton carries himself, the way he raises everyone's level of play. We all want to be part of that.''
Manning finished with four touchdown throws to run his career total to 510 in what ended as a 42-17 win.
The Broncos played a brief tribute, that included a video message from Favre, John Elway and several of Manning's teammates.
The Broncos receivers, as well as Julius Thomas, played keep-away briefly to keep the record football from Manning before finally handing the ball to the future Hall of Famer.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame said it had secured the ball and planned to have it on display in Canton by 4 p.m. ET on Monday.
Favre took to Twitter to congratulate Manning.
Well deserved Peyton. Congratulations on breaking my record. #Onto600 http://t.co/MEeffAlmeP— Brett Favre (@Favre4Official) October 20, 2014
Manning had thrown a 3-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 8:29 left in the opening quarter for his 507th career scoring pass, along with a 39-yard scoring pass to Wes Welker with 2:57 left in the first quarter to tie the record. It was Sanders' first touchdown catch of the season and his first scoring pass from Manning.
The game marked Manning's 246th regular-season start while Favre threw 508 touchdown passes in 302 regular-season starts for the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. Manning threw 399 touchdown passes in the regular season during his tenure with the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning had reached the 500 mark in the Broncos' 41-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, a game Manning finished with a career-best 479 yards passing. At 38 years old, after four neck surgeries, Manning has now thrown 110 touchdown passes for the Broncos since signing with the team in 2012.
It also means since choosing the Broncos over a list of suitors that included the Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and 49ers, Manning has set the league's single-season touchdown record (55 in 2013), guided the Broncos to back-to-back 13-win seasons and a Super Bowl appearance.
With 509 touchdown passes, Manning is currently 135 scoring passes ahead of the next active quarterback -- the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees, who has 374 career scoring passes after throwing two in the Saints' loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has 372 career scoring passes and the next active quarterback is Eli Manning, who has 243 career touchdown passes after Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Behind Manning and Favre, Hall of Famer Dan Marino is No. 3 all time with 420 touchdown passes. And though current Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway hasn't thrown a pass since the 1998 season, he is still seventh on the all-time list with 300.
Manning has tried to deflect the record's approach for much of the past month.
"I think we've concentrated on the important things. We've had two good wins coming off a bye week -- an early bye week," Manning said earlier this week. "I think you're curious how you're going to respond, especially if you have a little bit of rhythm going and you're playing decent football and then you have an early bye week. Do you come out sluggish? Do you lose anything that you had? I think we've responded well coming off that bye week and have had two good wins playing excellent teams. So that's what I've concentrated on, trying to do whatever it takes to win and I don't feel like it's been a distraction because we've handled it and focused on what's important."
After the game, Manning said, "I'm very humbled, I'm very honored,'' Manning said. "I certainly think about how grateful I am for all the teammates and coaches that I've played with and played for throughout my career, not only here in Denver -- in Indianapolis and all the people who have helped me along the way.''
Manning has also thanked "everybody, the coaches I've teammates I've played with ... any kind of record doesn't happen without them."
The pass to Demaryius Thomas gave Manning three touchdowns in the game and made it the 89th career game with at least three touchdowns passes.
Of all of the players who have reeled in touchdown passes from Manning since the start of his rookie season in 1998, former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison leads the way with 112 touchdown passes from Manning, with Reggie Wayne having caught 67 scoring passes and Dallas Clark with 44.
Since joining the Broncos Demaryius Thomas leads the way with 29 touchdown passes, including the record breaker.
"Throwing touchdowns is a part of playing football," Manning said in recent weeks. "But I guess for me throwing touchdowns has helped teams I've been a part of win a lot of football games. I don't think I've thrown a lot of touchdowns that didn't mean something. Any time you have a big lead, all the years I played in Indianapolis, the coaches would always take us out and if we were getting bad they'd take us out, so any ones that I've usually thrown usually resulted in our team trying to win the game or win the game so I think about it that way."
Adding the three Sunday to break Favre's record, in his 246 career regular-season games Manning has averaged 2.07 scoring passes per game over the course of his career, 2.89 scoring passes per game in his two-plus seasons with the Broncos.
Manning has now thrown 109 touchdown passes in 38 career starts for the Broncos. And the top four quarterbacks not named Manning in terms of touchdown passes thrown in a Broncos uniform -- Elway (300), Craig Morton (74), Jake Plummer (71) and Brian Griese (71) -- threw 516 combined touchdown passes with the Broncos.