I never got to see Payton play in person, as he retired one year before I attended my first NFL game. But you didn't need to have seen him play to have been a fan of his game. Even on a disappointing Bears team, he was a standout performer, winning NFL MVP in 1977 and finishing his career as the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
By now, everyone knows the story of Super Bowl XX, and how Mike Ditka calls not getting Payton a touchdown in that game one of his greatest regrets. As a kid in the '80s, I just thought it was so cool that The Fridge got to score a TD. It wasn't until years later that I realized how that impacted Payton, for whom Super Bowl XX should have been a crowning achievement in his career.
Sadly, Payton was taken from us far too soon, dying in 1999 from a rare liver disease. I remember seeing the news conference when he announced he had the disease; it was incredibly difficult to watch, but I'll remember that embrace with his son more than any highlight he had on the field.
Of course, it's always worth remembering the better times. So let's watch some highlights: