Mar 8, 12:36 AM EST

Manning sold Papa John's stores 2 days before NFL cut chain

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AP Photo/Darron Cummings

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DENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning sold 31 Denver-area Papa John's stores last week, two days before the NFL dropped 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.

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