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Manning to start against Falcons

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The wait for Eli Manning is over, and not at the request of the New York Giants ownership.

The Giants' quarterback of the future was given the starting job on Monday after two-time MVP Kurt Warner was benched following New York's third loss in four games.

It's exciting,'' said Manning, who has seen limited mop-up action in two games.This is something I want to do. This is what I want to do for a living. This is why I want to play football, so I can go out there and be the starting quarterback. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

``Now it's time to go out there and play football.''

Manning will face the Atlanta Falcons (7-2) on Sunday at Giants Stadium in a game New York (5-4) needs to win to renew its playoff hopes.

Giants co-owner Wellington Mara said the front office didn't influence coach Tom Coughlin's choice to start Manning, who is the son of former NFL star Archie Manning and the brother of co-MVP Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

``I don't think Tom Coughlin would work for an organization that made player decisions for him,'' Mara said in a statement released by the team.

The change came less than a day after the offense struggled for the second straight week in a 17-14 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.

While Warner was professional in handling the change, the demotion caught the 33-year-old former Super Bowl MVP off guard. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 193 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in a game in which his offensive line did nothing to help him after the first quarter.

Warner, who led the team to two early touchdown and a 14-3 lead, was sacked six times in the loss. He has been sacked 24 times in the last four games and 39 times this season.

My play yesterday I don't think had anything to do with that,'' Warner said of the change.Read into that as much as you want, but there is a bigger picture here. There's more things that are trying to be accomplished here, and that's why the decision was made.''

Warner, who had thrown six touchdowns and four interceptions in 268 attempts, seemed to suggest the organization wanted Manning to play just to get an idea about their $46 million wonder kid.

Coughlin said after the game that Warner was expected to start against the Falcons, but he told his quarterbacks otherwise on Monday.

He is the future of the New York Giants, it just starts now,'' Coughlin said of Manning.I really felt the last four games we haven't been playing well offensively. We just need to make a change.''

Halfback Tiki Barber also felt the decision wasn't political.

We've lost three of four, something has to change,'' Barber said.I have talked about this before, how sometimes just change for change's sake makes things happen, and that's what we are looking for, some spark.''

Coughlin could have considered revamping his offensive line, but his best five linemen are already playing. His only recourse was a quarterback change.

Warner, signed in the offseason as a caretaker quarterback after being released by the Rams, did his best to keep Manning on the bench all season. After losing the opener, he led the Giants to four straight wins.

Turnovers by Warner in losses to Detroit and Chicago, and a ton of penalties against Arizona convinced Coughlin to switch starters.

Rookie quarterbacks have won all 10 games they have started this season. Ben Roethlisberger is 7-0 with Pittsburgh and Craig Krenzel is 3-0 with Chicago.

I think there's enough pressure being a rookie quarterback, whether you come in and start the first game or whether you come in during the middle of the season,'' Manning said.You can't worry about that. You have to go out there and play your game, play as hard as you can, try to make smart decisions and hopefully things will go your way.''

The Giants traded the rights to Philip Rivers the fourth pick overall and three other draft picks, including a No. 1 next year, to San Diego to acquire Manning on draft day. After a horrible performance in his first minicamp, Manning has impressed the coaching staff and teammates with his knowledge of the game, his poise and his arm.

He is not your ordinary rookie,'' Toomer said.He does some special things with the football.''

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