Walter Payton has never sought publicity in his pursuit of Jim Brown. After games, he says he doesn't know how many yards he has gained. He won't talk about the NFL rushing record except at a weekly press conference. When he does mention it, he says it doesn't matter to him.
If Payton had his way, he would gain the 67 yards he needs to break Brown's record early in Sunday's game against New Orleans -- and nobody would pay any attention.
Payton is having his way, at least about the attention.
He is deep inside the sports sections of Chicago's two dailies today, pushed aside by the Cubs. Most of the newspapers' top writers and columnists are in San Diego, not here. Payton, playing a quiet second fiddle, is toiling in relative anonymity this weekend.
The Bears (3-2), who hope to break out of a two-game losing streak against the Saints (3-2) at 1 p.m., asked Payton if they could stop the game for a three-minute ceremony with his family when he breaks the record.
Payton said no.
Instead, the referee will stop the game and hand Payton the ball, he will give it to Pete Elliott, director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then he will walk back to the huddle.
"I don't know how I'm going to feel Sunday," Payton said at his press conference this week. "I'll just be glad when this is over and I can get settled down to a normal life."
Barring injury, Payton is almost certain to break Brown's 19-year-old record of 12,312 yards at Soldier Field Sunday. He has run for more than 100 yards four games in a row, including 155 last week against Dallas, to move to 12,246 yards.
Brown, who played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957-65, set his record in 118 games in nine seasons. Payton is in his 10th season and will be playing his 136th game. Brown had 2,359 carries; Payton has 2,778 and counting.
"Maybe when I'm through playing football and I'm old," Payton said, "this will be one of the things I can brag on if I have to."