Walter Payton, finding NFL yards a lot harder to come by this year, hopes he has avoided one "hit" now that a suburban Chicagoan has been arrested for threatening Sweetness Bear's life. Police said the fellow, 26, admitted he telephoned a TV station to demand $100,000 be delivered to a Chicago Loop location or Payton would be killed; later called the City Park District's central switchboard to announce he would shoot Payton during a game and "blow up" several fans in the process. That was the Sunday the Bears lost to Oakland in overtime - Payton rushing a healthy 123 yards, though, and living to see an auto circling his home in suspicious manner later in the week. Payton blew the whistle, and on a day he gained 82 yards but the Bears lost to Green Bay, the law came running to get its man.

Payton's stalker allegedly told police he was angry because the Bears denied him a tryout.

And how about the character, 28, arrested for carrying a concealed 44-caliber Magnum in the Orange Bowl after twice being shooed away from the Dolphins' bench during Monday night's Cincinnati-Miami game? That one said he was an atomic engineer, but an officer added: "He seemed incoherent . . . talking about being a friend of Mercury Morris and that once he got there, everything would be all right."