After tallying an NCAA record 65 touchdowns at Jackson State, Walter Payton was selected with the fourth pick of the first round in the 1975 NFL draft. He ran for just 679 yards in his rookie season, but racked up 1,390 yards in his second season, earning his first Pro Bowl bid.
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Payton won the league's MVP award in 1977 when he ran for 1,852 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Shown here walking onto Lambeau Field, Payton's biggest game of '77 came against the Vikings, when he rushed for a then-record 275 yards while battling the flu.
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Sweetness leaped past Jim Brown on Oct. 7, 1984, breaking the Cleveland Browns great's all-time rushing record.
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After eclipsing Brown's mark of 12,312 yards, Payton received a congratulatory call from President Regan.
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Sports Illustrated marked the occasion by putting the new all-time rushing leader on the cover of the Oct. 15, 1984 issue.
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Teamed with quarterback Jim McMahon, Payton rushed for more than 1,500 yards in 1985 as the Bears sprinted to a 15-1 record that culminated in a 46-10 victory in Super Bowl XX.
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Shown here with his wife, Connie, and son, Jarrett, in 1984, Payton was an outspoken advocate for organ donation. In fact, the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation continues to fight for the cause today.
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Pictured here with his brother Eddie and mother, Alyne, Payton was an accomplished dancer and chess player off the field. He was also a notorious practical joker and racing enthusiast.
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After rushing for 1,333 yards in 1986, Payton announced that he would retire at the end of the 1987 season. Shown here following the last game of his career -- a 21-17 loss to the Redskins -- Payton finished his career with 16,726 rushing yards, 110 rushing touchdowns and only one missed game in 13 seasons.
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Nine months after he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis -- a rare liver disease -- Walter Payton died on Nov. 1, 1999. His final public appearance came in April 1999 when, joined by Mike Ditka, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
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