Sanders is shown here as a Florida State Seminole, getting his ankle taped before their 1988 Sugar Bowl matchup with Auburn. Sanders was a third-team All-America in '88 and often saved his best performances for the biggest stages. He had three interceptions in bowl games over his four-year career.
2 of 19David Banks/AP
Always comfortable in front of the camera, Sanders is pictured here with reporter Andrea Kremer during the 1989 NFL Draft. Sanders was eventually selected fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons. He played in Atlanta for the first four years of his career.
3 of 19Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
In 1989, Sanders, a member of the New York Yankees Triple-A affiliate Columbus Clippers, was still deciding between pursuing a career in football or baseball. Eventually choosing to play both professionally, Sanders was called up to the Yankees later that summer. Having been drafted with the fifth overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons earlier in the year, 1989 was the first year that Sanders played both sports.
4 of 19John Biever/SI
Sanders was drafted by the Falcons 5th overall in the 1989 draft and immediately made his mark. The first punt he touched was returned for a touchdown. Sanders played five years for Atlanta and scored 10 times. He intercepted 24 passes as a Falcon. In 1992 he led the league in kickoff return yards and return touchdowns.
5 of 19Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Dressed like Eazy-E from the infamous late `80s rap group N.W.A, Sanders was featured in this photo shoot in 1989, while a member of the Yankee's Triple-A team the Columbus Clippers. Throughout his career, Sanders never shied away from publicity, a point of contention for many teammates but a major reason he was so marketable.
6 of 19John Biever/SI
No stranger to high profile players, the Yankees called up Sanders to play outfield in 1989. He put in one, mostly uneventful season in New York, with the exception of one high-profile flare-up. Sanders hit a pop-up and didn't run it out, which caused opposing catcher Carlton Fisk to curse at him. Sanders replied "the days of slavery are over," which lead to a hailstorm of criticism.
7 of 19AP
Seen here competing in the Pro Beach Challenge before the Pro Bowl, Sanders was no stranger to Honolulu. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, beginning in 1991.
8 of 19John Swart/AP
Due to football obligations, Sanders wasn't able to play for the Braves during the 1992 regular season but reworked his contract so he was available for Atlanta's playoff run. Despite playing with a broken bone in his foot, Sanders had a fantastic postseason, including a memorable World Series in which he hit .533. The Braves ultimately lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the final series 4-2.
9 of 19Gene Puskar/AP
Two of the most controversial athletes in recent history, Sanders (shown here with the Atlanta Braves) and Barry Bonds (with the Pittsburgh Pirates) are shown chatting before the 1992 NLCS.
10 of 19John Biever/SI
Seen here making a leaping catch in the ivy at Wrigley Field, Sanders was a member of the Atlanta Braves from 1991 to '94. With the Braves in 1992, Sanders had the best year of his career, hitting .304 with 26 steals
11 of 19Bill Frakes/SI
Dubbed the "Deion Sweepstakes" because of Sanders combination of talent and charisma, NFL free agency during the summer of 1995 was centered on where the talented cornerback would end up. Citing his desire to win, Sanders signed with the Cowboys for seven years and $35 million. The Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX later that spring.
12 of 19John Iacono/SI
Sanders joined the Cowboys in 1995, instantly becoming one of the most high profile players on a team that had won two of the three previous Super Bowls. In his five seasons in Dallas, Sanders was one of the league's best cornerbacks and return men, but also pitched in on offense as well. In Superbowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sanders had a 47-yard reception that set up the Cowboys' first touchdown. Dallas won 27-17.
13 of 19Brad Mangin/SI
"Prime Time" was known for celebrating before a play was over. Whether he was high-stepping into the end zone after an interception or punt return, or holding the ball up, Sanders thrilled and angered many with his antics.
14 of 19Hans Deryk/AP
Arguably Sanders' least publicized professional stint came in 1995, his one year with the San Francisco Giants. The team was terrible, finishing last in the NL West with a 67-77 record. Sanders came off the bench and hit .285 with five home runs and eight stolen bases.
15 of 19Mark Duncan/AP
After retiring from professional football in 2001, Sanders decided to make one final comeback in 2004 with the Baltimore Ravens. While not the same athlete that he had once been, Sanders was an effective nickelback for Baltimore for two seasons and gave their veteran team another steady locker room presence.
16 of 19Jill Connelly/AP
Sanders mentoring young students at the Chapel of Peace Head Start center in Inglewood, Calif. In 1998, Sanders became the face of Nike's Start Line, an outreach program designed to provide computers, software and staff training to selected centers on the West Coast. Throughout his playing career and after retirement, Sanders has been one of pro sports' most generous athletes.
17 of 19Richard Drew/AP
Pictured with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Sanders retired from the NFL in 2005. He remains an active presence in the league's circles, serving as a mentor to many young players across the country.
18 of 19Chris Pizzello/AP
Sanders presents the "Do Something for Kids" award to rapper Snoop Dogg at the VH1 Do Something Awards in 2010.
19 of 19Peter Kramer/AP
Deion and his wife, Pilar, make their home in Dallas, where Sanders counsels many young Cowboys about their decision-making. Shown here at the NBC Universal Experience at Rockefeller Center, Deion and Pilar have been married since 1999.
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