Chicago Bears star Walter Payton abused painkillers, became suicidal after his playing days, and juggled entertaining his wife and mistress during his Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio in 1993, a new book scheduled to come out next month alleges.
An excerpt of the book titled “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” by Jeff Pearlman appears in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.
The book alleges that Payton self-medicated himself after his career was over in 1987. Payton had a rare disease that affected his liver, and the legendary running back died in 1999 from bile duct cancer.
The biography chronicles Payton’s life from his childhood to his post-NFL life. It is set to come out Oct. 4.
“I’d see him walk out of the locker room with jars of painkillers, and he’d eat them like they were a snack,” Payton’s longtime agent Bud Holmes told the author.
An assistant to both Payton and Holmes, Ginny Quirk, remembered receiving suicidal calls from Payton during the mid-’90s. Pearlman also reports that Payton lived apart from his wife Connie, and had extramarital affairs. Quirk was also quoted saying it was her job to keep Payton’s wife and misstress apart during his Hall of Fame weekend in 1993.
Payton’s family released a statement to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune saying:
“Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures — some true, some untrue — do not change this. I’m saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility.”
In a Q&A with Sports Illustrated, Pearlman said he wanted to write a “definitive biography”:
“I had a good friend of his say, ‘You’re not gonna write about the Hall of Fame.’ How can you write a definitive biography about someone, find out something like that and not write about it? Your goal isn’t to write an ode to Walter Payton. The goal is to find out who he was and how he lived. I’m very defensive about that. You want to write an honest and accurate biography.”
Payton played his entire 13-year career with the Bears, where he rushed for 16,726 yards, and had 10 season of 1,000 or more rushing yards. Payton is second on the all-time rushing leader list.
The Bears released a statement saying:
“When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization,” the organization said. “Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.”
-With Associated Press