The NFL's two astounding comeback stories reached new heights Wednesday when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson were selected starters in the Pro Bowl.
Peterson was an easy choice as the NFC's lead running back, as he has a league-best 1,898 rushing yards heading into the regular season's final week. His stellar work comes less than a year after he underwent surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Manning needed four surgical procedures on his neck, costing him all of the 2011 season. He subsequently signed as a free agent with the Broncos and led the team to the AFC West championship.
Manning had stiff competition for the AFC's starting quarterback spot for the Pro Bowl, as the New England Patriots' Tom Brady is enjoying another stellar season. Brady's yardage total tops Manning's (4,543-4,355), and Brady has thrown fewer interceptions (eight to Manning's 11), but Manning has the edge in completion percentage (.681-.631) and touchdown passes (34-32).
"It's a tremendous honor and I am very humbled to receive this recognition," Manning said. "Being voted to the Pro Bowl by your opponents, their coaches and of course the fans means a great deal to me, especially when you consider how many other quarterbacks in the AFC are having outstanding seasons."
The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Brady was selected a backup quarterback on the AFC Pro Bowl team, along with the Houston Texans' Matt Schaub.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was chosen the NFC's starter, with the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan and Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III selected as backups.
The Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore, both playoff-bound, are the NFC running backs behind Peterson.
The Houston Texans' Arian Foster was chosen as the top AFC running back. He'll be backed up by the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles and the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice.
The NFC's starting wide receivers are the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson and the Chicago Bears' Brandon Marshall. The Falcons' Julio Jones and the New York Giants' Victor Cruz are the reserves.
Houston's Andre Johnson and the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green will start at wide receiver for the AFC, with the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne and the Patriots' Wes Welker in reserve.
Falcons veteran Tony Gonzalez earned the NFC's starting nod at tight end, with the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten the second-stringer.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowski drew the start for the AFC, with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Heath Miller as his backup.
The NFC defense will carry a strong San Francisco feeling. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, defensive end Justin Smith, middle linebacker Patrick Willis, free safety Dashon Goldson and strong safety Donte Whitner were all selected as starters, and middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman was chosen as a backup to Willis.
The Texans, Broncos and Chiefs each have two defensive starters on the NFC team: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt and cornerback Johnathan Joseph, Denver cornerback Champ Bailey and outside linebacker Von Miller, and Kansas City strong safety Eric Berry and outside linebacker Tamba Hali.
Overall, the 49ers have the most players selected with nine, including two starting offensive linemen, guard Mike Iupati and tackle Joe Staley.
The Texans landed an AFC-high eight selections, including offensive tackle Duane Brown, a starter, and guard Wade Smith and center Chris Myers, both chosen as backups.