(Reuters) - Peyton Manning joined Brett Favre in an exclusive two-man club on Sunday when he threw the 500th touchdown pass of his glittering career, then added three more as the Denver Broncos hammered the Arizona Cardinals 41-20.
The 38-year-old completed 31 of 47 passes for a total of 479 yards, though his eye-catching display in the mile-high altitude of Denver was marred by two interceptions.
“I do think about how many people have helped me throughout my career ... and I just think how grateful I am for that help and support,” Manning told reporters after moving to 503 career touchdown passes, just five short of Favre’s record.
“Football is the ultimate team game and so I guess one man kind of has to accept it (an accolade) on behalf of his coaches and team mates. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for their help.”
Manning reached the 500-mark when he connected with tight end Julius Thomas for a seven-yard touchdown with just under five minutes left in the first quarter in Denver, a pinpoint toss to the right that he celebrated with a fist pump.
It was the quarterback’s 101st touchdown pass since he signed with the Broncos before the start of the 2012 season after he began his stellar National Football League career with the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning reached the 500 milestone on Sunday in his 244th career regular season game. Favre needed 293 games.
The landmark football tossed for that 500th pass was quickly secured by Manning’s team mates and taken to the locker room on his behalf.
Asked if he had previously kept footballs to commemorate special achievements on the field, Manning replied with a smile: ”I’ve never kept a football mainly because the receivers always keep them.
“I’ll probably keep it in a bag, with a little piece of tape around it. It will have some kind of mark until (his son) Marshall goes and plays with it in the mud before long.”
Manning also tossed touchdown passes of 31 and 86 yards to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter against the Cardinals, and his fourth on a sunny afternoon from 12 yards to Julius Thomas in the final quarter.
Demaryius Thomas finished with eight catches and two touchdowns for a franchise record of 226 yards receiving.
“He’s not in the history books for nothing. The guy is awesome,” said Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson after Manning shredded Arizona’s fifth-ranked defense for a Denver franchise record 568 yards in total offense.
“He just came out here and lit us up.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry