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Walter Payton

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Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954, in Columbia, Mississippi - November 1, 1999) was an American football player who held the career record for most yards gained by a running back until 2002 when Emmitt Smith broke his record. Payton played college football at Jackson State University in Mississippi and was drafted in the first round (fourth overall) by the Chicago Bears in 1975 . From 1976 to 1980 he led the National Football Conference in rushing, leading the entire league in 1977 with 1,852 yards. Against the Minnesota Vikings on November 20, 1977 , Payton rushed for 275 yards on 40 carries while fighting a severe case of influenza . The 275 yards was an NFL single-game record until it was broken by Corey Dillon of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. He was the NFL Player of the Year and National Football League Most Valuable Player in 1977, and again in 1985. Payton was a vital member of the 1985 Super Bowl champion team, rushing for 1,551 yards. Payton retired from the Chicago Bears after the 1987 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on July 31, 1993 .

After retirement, Payton dabbled in auto racing and was part of a group of investors that sought to bring an NFL team back to St. Louis, Missouri . This effort, however, proved unsuccessful as the NFL awarded expansion franchises to Jacksonville, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina in 1995 . There is also a school in Chicago named after him. In February 1999 Payton announced that he had a rare liver disease - primary sclerosing cholangitis. Unable to receive a liver transplant because of bile duct cancer, Payton died in his home in Barrington , Illinois on November 1, 1999.

Walter Payton rushed for an incredible 16,726 yards, which places him second on the NFL all-time rushing list behind only Emmitt Smith. He also scored 125 career TD's, seventh on the all-time scoring list. Known as a superb runner, blocker and receiver, he was called "Sweetness".

His son Jarrett Payton, following in his footsteps, is a running back for the Tennessee Titans where his former teammate, Jeff Fisher, is the head coach.

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