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Manning ‘excited’ to see Rebels back in Sugar Bowl

As a member of the Sugar Bowl committee, Archie Manning gets tickets to the annual New Year’s Day game every year that he usually gives away to friends who have a rooting interest in the teams sent to New Orleans.

That gesture was put on hold this year when he found out his alma mater would be playing in the game for the first time in nearly half a century.

“When Ole Miss was coming, I said, ‘Y’all might have to hold up a little while and let’s see what we got,’” Manning said.

Manning, who’s widely viewed as perhaps the greatest player in Ole Miss history, was the quarterback the last time the Rebels played in the Sugar Bowl. That was in 1970, a game Ole Miss won 27-22 over Arkansas with Manning being named the game’s MVP.

Ole Miss won four of its last five games this season to finish as the Southeastern Conference’s second-highest ranked team in the final College Football Playoff rankings to get back to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since. The Rebels will take on Oklahoma State, and not many people are looking forward to finally having a rooting interest in it more than Manning.

“Being a Sugar Bowl member of course obviously, we’ve had a lot of schools here, a lot of Southeastern Conference schools here, with the hope that one day Ole Miss could come to the Sugar Bowl,” said Manning, who still lives in New Orleans with his wife, Olivia. “The Manning family is really excited as is the entire Sugar Bowl organization. Also I think the whole New Orleans community and south Louisiana community and people who support the Sugar Bowl are excited about having Ole Miss and Oklahoma State here.”

Ole Miss has put together back-to-back nine-win seasons under head coach Hugh Freeze, who’s won 33 of his 51 games since taking over a depleted program following the 2011 season. Manning served as co-chairman of the five-member search committee that helped hire Freeze then.

Manning said he’s just as happy with the committee’s choice now.

“We got a few pats on the back, but all the credit goes to coach Freeze and his coaching staff,” Manning said. “I couldn’t be happier with everything he’s been able to accomplish.”