July 25, 1954—November 1, 1999
Walter Payton, the former Chicago Bears running back and current all-time leader in NFL career rushing yards, died Monday at his home in Barrington, Ill. of the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis. He was 45.
Dubbed "Sweetness" by his teammates in reference to his pleasant disposition and his phenomenal moves on the football field, Payton retired after the 1987 season with 16,726 rushing yards in 13 seasons with the Bears. He also has more all-purpose yards (rushing plus receiving) than any other player in football history with 21,803.
Payton possessed an unmatched combination of power, elusiveness and desire and was the model of consistency for Chicago, missing just one game over his 13-year career. The one miss came in his rookie year and was a coach's decision, not his.
Payton and Barry Sanders are the only two players to record ten 1,000-yard seasons. He led the NFC in rushing for five consecutive years from 1976—1980. Only Jim Brown (8) has more rushing titles. On Nov. 20, 1977, Payton rushed for an NFL record 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings, eclipsing O.J. Simpson's mark of 273.
Bears' only Super Bowl win
In 1985 he led the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl win, a 46-10 laugher over the New England Patriots, leading all running backs with 61 rushing yards in the game.
Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and his No. 34 is retired by the Bears. He is survived by his wife, Connie, and two children, Jarrett and Brittney.