Payton legend on field, example in life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Mississippi lost a great son on Monday. Few people that knew him would doubt that Walter Payton was special.

In many circles Payton was more well-known than many state politicians, yet Payton never held a single political office.

In simple terms Payton was an athlete – a football player to be exact.

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More specifically, he was the National Football League’s greatest rusher.

Born in Columbia, Payton grew up during one of Mississippi’s most tumultuous times – the 1960s.

Payton was a standout at Jackson State University and then ran his way into legendary status while playing for the Chicago Bears.

When Payton retired 13 years later, he had amassed dozens of awards, honors and records including the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards, or an incredible 9.5 miles.

But unlike many great athletes, Payton was charming and personable off the field. He always had time for his fans and never forgot his Mississippi roots.

Dubbed &uot;Sweetness&uot; by his fans, Payton set NFL records that may never be broken, but perhaps the greatest gift he left us was through the example he set each day.

Even near the end, as he battled cancer and liver disease, Payton showed the dignity which went to the marrow.

&uot;It’s not in my hands anymore,&uot; Payton said. &uot;It’s in God’s hands.&uot;

And we have no doubt that Payton is somewhere above us today, sprinting and prancing through the clouds.