Peter Collins, Papa John’s spokesman, confirmed in an email that Manning had sold his stake after "six successful and rewarding years." The stake was part of a joint venture with Papa John's International.
Collins shared that the stores were acquired by an existing Papa John’s franchisee who operates “a substantial number of Papa John’s locations in large markets” and plans to re-hire all current employees.
“The franchisee that purchased the market is excited about the future of our business and assumed ownership of all Papa John’s locations in the Denver, Co., market on Feb. 26, 2018,” Collins said.
Though Manning has sold his stake, his agreement with the company means the former Denver Broncos quarterback will remain Papa John’s celebrity spokesperson and brand ambassador.
Papa John's had been the official pizza sponsor of the NFL for years, but the two organizations announced their joint decision to end that partnership last week.
"The NFL and Papa John's have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport," the league and company said Tuesday in a joint statement, via ESPN.
The move follows controversy surrounding Papa John's founder John Schnatter, who stepped down as company CEO in December after naming NFL players' decision to take a knee during the national anthem as the reason for poor pizza sales.
The chain has been replaced by Pizza Hut as the NFL's new official sponsor.
"The NFL and pizza appeal to the same demographic, which is everyone," said Renie Anderson, the NFL's senior vice president of partnership and sponsorship management. "Fans watch our game and they do it around a pizza box. That's why it's one of the most important categories in sports sponsorship."
Photo Credit: Getty / Icon Sportswire