Don't look now, Chicago's Walter Payton is off and running at a pace that would beat O. J. Simpson's NFL mark of 2,003 rushing yards in a season -- and, no asterisk, Sweetness Bear would do it in the 14th game. His 441 yards for three games breaks down to an average of 147, which would mount up to 2,058 in 14 games (2,352 for the full 16) . . . Rival Dallas' Tony Dorsett is shaking the Texas Stadium boos from his ears after losing three fumbles to the Bears -- and this week in practice is "running the gauntlet" for his pains. That's the drill Coach Tom Landry says, "We usually don't have until we have a (fumbling) problem. A back just runs through a line of players with everyone grabbing at the ball." Life's tough up there at 3-0, too . . .

Scatch Mirajan Benes as Sugar Ray Leonard's foe on the ABC-TV prime-time (8-11 p.m.) fight show from Las Vegas a week from Friday -- the Yugoslav middleweight was kayoed his last start with Andy Price of Los Angeles will try to blemish Leonard's 24-0 log.

Price could be formidable; Ring mag ranks him No. 8 welterweight contender (No. 4 in U.S.) on a 27-5-3 record. A parole officer in Watts with a business administration degree, "Hawk" Price is the only fighter to beat both Pipino Cuevas (1976) and Carlos Palomino (1974) as a pro . . .

Oh-oh, Gordie Howe -- at 51 almost up there with runnin' Jimmy Carter -- has been experiencing dizzy spells and they're worried in Hartford he won't be able to lace up his skates for his 32nd season as a pro hockey player. X-rays and blood tests are under review . . .