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(CBS) A revealing new book accuses former Bears running back Walter Payton of using drugs, cheating on his wife and being suicidal.
This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated includes excerpts of “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” by Jeff Pearlman and paints a sad picture of the Hall-of-Fame running back who died in 1999.
The Sports Illustrated columnist says in his book that:
-Payton abused a cocktail of Vicodin and Tylenol after his playing days,
-ate painkillers like they were a snack,
-and because of painkiller abuse, Payton had erratic behavior and threatened to commit suicide.
Payton’s former agent, Bud Holmes, is quoted in the book accusing the running back of using drugs:
“Walter was pounding his body with medication, I wish I knew how bad it was, but at the time I really didn’t,” Holmes said.
The book claims Payton was supplied pills and liquids by the Bears when he was a player and that he continued to use vicodin and nitrous oxide after he retired.
Holmes also says Payton was suicidal.
“Walter would call me all the time saying he was about to kill himself, he was tired. He was angry. Nobody loved him. He wanted to be dead,” Holmes said.
The book also talks about Payton having extra-marital affairs.
The book also says Payton’s Hall-of-Fame induction weekend was one of the worst in his life because his wife and girlfriend were both in attendance.
The Payton family issued the following statement in response to the book’s allegations:
“Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures – some true, some untrue – do not change this. I’m saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility.”
Reaction from Chicagoans Wednesday night was similar to Connie Payton’s statement.
Chicagoan Clay Johnson said, “To come out with it after, you know, the NFL’s been out of a lockout and been resurgent and everything, it’s pretty hard to picture the timing being anything better than, you know, just a publicity ploy.”
“I loved Walter Payton. I don’t want to acknowledge what this person is saying. I’m not sure where this is coming from, but he was really a wonderful person for the city,” Heather Alger said.
“Anything for a buck nowadays and it’s the root of all evil and … it’s sad. It’s really sad,” said Christopher Mace.
The Chicago Bears also issued a prepared statement Wednesday evening, stating:
“The Chicago Bears had the unique honor and privilege of having Walter Payton as a part of our organization for over two decades as both a player and board member. We believe his competitive spirit lives with us today. When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization. Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.”