JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - Eddie Payton sits in his office inside his Jackson home. An office that, these days, better resembles a museum.
As he scours cardboard boxes and flips through old photo albums, memories of his playing days rush back - including the night he returned a kickoff 99-yards for a touchdown as a Minnesota Viking.
“This kid sent me a nickel and he said this nickel’s going to bring you luck so I put it in my sock,” Payton said. “And the night I returned that kickoff 99 yards, I had the nickel in my sock. That was a good run.”
Few can tell a better story than Eddie Payton.
But when those stories fade from the memory bank, the pictures, plaques and paraphernalia will help serve as a reminder of what once was.
“I’ve just been a collector,” Payton said. “I’m not a hoarder. I might be messy but I’m not a hoarder.”
“I tell people I played with four different presidents. They say, ‘No you didn’t.’ I say here’s one with [Bill] Clinton. He’s a good guy, not that good a golfer.”
Even Eddie couldn’t dream up what was in store for him when it was time to leave Hendricks Street in Columbia for four years of football at Jackson State and another five in the National Football League.
His brother Walter - who at one time held NFL records for career rushing yards (16,726) and touchdowns (110) - was alongside him the whole way.
“A guy asked me, ‘How does it feel to be the brother of a superstar?’” Payton said. “I told him what you need to do is call Chicago [Bears] and ask Walter.”
For all the plays the two brothers made on the field, their best memories came after the game when two kids from Columbia could say hello to their mother Alyne.
“The first half she was on Chicago’s side and then the second half she came around and sat on the Detroit [Lions] side,” Payton said. “And the smile on her face, you just can’t put a price on.”
Of course, Eddie can’t really forget all those football games he played. His knees won’t allow him.
But he certainly wishes he were reliving those moments with Walter, who’s no doubt smiling from above.
“I always can look at Walter and the things he did, the pictures I have of him and put a smile on my face,” Payton said. “When you can reference something that puts a smile on your face, that person is never gone. If they passed on or they moved on, they’ve never gone because you can look and it takes you back to a great time.”