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NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton dead at 45
Updated 5:48 PM ET November 1, 1999
LAKE FOREST, Illinois (Ticker) -- Hall of Famer Walter Payton, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, died today at his home at about 1 p.m. EST. He was 45.

Payton had been suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare liver disease, and was awaiting a transplant.

A media briefing will be held at 6 p.m. EST at Halas Hall. Payton's physician along with representatives of the Payton family and the Bears will be available at the briefing.

Rumors circulated that Payton's health was deteriorating when his son, Jarrett, abruptly left the University of Miami football team last Thursday to return home.

"He was the best football player I ever seen and one of the best people I ever met," said New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka, who coached Payton for six years in Chicago, including the Bears' 1985 championship season.

Payton confirmed in an emotional news conference back in February that he was suffering from the liver disease and was placed on a waiting list for a transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Payton rarely made public appearances since then and was too ill to watch his son, a freshman running back, play this season at Miami.

Nicknamed "Sweetness," Payton played 13 seasons and rushed for a league-best 16,726 yards. He played in a club-record 184 straight games for the Bears from 1975-87 and also holds the single-game mark with 275 rushing yards against Minnesota on November 20, 1977.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue issued the following statement on the death of Payton.

"All of us in the NFL family are saddened by the loss of Walter Payton. He was without a doubt one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. Walter exemplified class and all of us in sports should honor him by striving to perpetuate his standard of excellence. Walter was an inspiration in everything he did. The tremendous grace and dignity he displayed in his final months reminded us again why 'Sweetness' was the perfect nickname for Walter Payton."

A 1975 first-round pick of the Bears, Payton rushed for over 1,000 yards 10 times, including a career-best 1,852 in 1977. An elusive and deceptively powerful runner, Payton averaged 4.4 yards on 3,838 carries with 110 rushing scores.

Payton, a seven-time All-Pro, also was an excellent blocker and receiver, catching 492 passes for 4,538 yards and 15 scores. He still holds eight NFL records and 28 club records.

The Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985 with Payton rushing for 1,551 yards and nine scores. His No. 34 is one of 13 jerseys retired by the club.

The former Jackson State star was voted to nine Pro Bowls and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He also is a member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team.

Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions was 1,458 yards shy of passing Payton on the all-time rushing list, but unexpectedly announced his retirement before the 1999 season.

Payton became the league's top rusher when he eclipsed Jim Brown's then-record of 12,312 yards on October 7, 1984. Brown now stands sixth on the all-time list.

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 1980's Chicago Bears 
1980's Chicago Bears
Title: 1980's Chicago Bears
Athletes: McMahon, Perry, Payton,
Hampton, Singletary
Artist: Michael Mellett
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Size: 16" x 20"
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 Walter Payton - Hall of Fame Portrait 
Walter Payton - Hall of Fame Portrait
Title: Walter Payton - Hall of Fame Portrait
Athlete: Walter Payton
Artist: Andy Goralski
Edition: 340 s/n
Size: 17" x 25"
Autographed: Yes
Price: $375.00
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