Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954– November 1, 1999) was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. Walter Payton was known around the NFL as "Sweetness". He is remembered as one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the NFL. Payton, a nine-time Pro Bowl selectee, once held the league's record for most career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and many other categories. His eight career touchdown passes are an NFL record for non-quarterbacks. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka described Payton as the greatest football player he had ever seen—but even greater as a human being.
Payton began his football career in Mississippi, and went on to have an outstanding collegiate football career at Jackson State University where he was an All-American. He started his professional career with the Chicago Bears in 1975, who selected him as the 1975 Draft's fourth overall pick. Payton proceeded to win two NFL Most Valuable Player Awards and won Super Bowl XX with the 1985 Chicago Bears. After struggling with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis for several months, Payton died on November 1, 1999, aged 45, from cholangiocarcinoma. His legacy includes the Walter Payton Award, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and a heightened awareness of the need for organ donations.
By Dean Hanley
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