Manning shed Papa John’s franchises prior to chain’s NFL split

Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning sold 31 Denver-area Papa John's stores last week, three days before the NFL replaced the chain as its official pizza sponsor.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Papa John's spokesman Peter Collins confirmed the former NFL quarterback sold his stake to an existing Papa John's franchisee.

Manning will remain Papa John's celebrity spokesman and brand ambassador. He wasn't immediately available for comment.

The NFL and Papa John's ended their deal Feb. 27, and the league announced a multiyear marketing deal with Pizza Hut the following day.

The NFL's relationship with Papa John's was strained last year when company founder John Schnatter criticized the league's leadership about national anthem protests by players.

Rather than serving as the league’s official pizza, the company said it would focus on doing marketing with 22 specific NFL teams. The move is part of an attempt to overhaul Papa John’s marketing under a new chief executive, who took the helm last month.

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