MADISON, N.J. -- There are wisps of gray in his hair, but Everson Walls won't step aside and won't be silenced.

The signs of age and a willingness to speak on behalf of others was a combination that got Walls booted out of Dallas. The Cowboys were redefining their image under Coach Jimmy Johnson and didn't want a 30-year-old cornerback, especially one who, serving as team captain, questioned some of Johnson's ways.

Rebuffed by the Cowboys and bypassed by most of the NFL, Walls remains undaunted. The other day at the camp of his new team, the New York Giants, he wore a T-shirt commemorating a speech this summer by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. It said "The Time and What Must be Done."

After nine years in the NFL, Walls is fighting the battle again.

"It's the same {as my rookie year}," Walls said. "After my rookie year, when I led the league {in interceptions}, everyone was at ease with my career, but now that I'm with the Giants {my family and friends} see it as a new beginning for me and they've pulled together as one."

Walls is the only player to lead the league in interceptions three times (1981, '82 and '85). Until Johnson benched him the final two games of the 1989 season, he had started 139 in a row.

Despite three interceptions in two preseason games and Mark Collins's holdout, Walls probably won't be a full-time player. But he may become the Giants' most valuable reserve.

He is the backup left cornerback and free safety and will probably play safety in the nickel defense.

Walls gives the Giants another back who is proficient at man-to-man coverage. He knows the NFC East as well as any cornerback.

On his preseason interceptions against the Houston Oilers, Walls looked like the receiver, making an over-the-shoulder catch on one and planting his feet just inside the sideline to make the second.

"I have a pretty unorthodox technique," he said. "When I first came into the league I used a lot of backpedaling in my man-to-man, and as I got more confident in my sight I'd look at the quarterback more and keep the receiver in my peripheral vision. That's what enables me to see the ball sometimes even before the receiver does."