Walter Payton's family disputes elements of new biography

Walter Payton’s family has predictably taken exception to details in the new biography by veteran journalist Jeff Pearlman – “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.

Pearlman details how Payton had extramarital affairs and juggled a girlfriend and his wife Connie at his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He describes a dark depression that Payton fell into after his playing days with the Chicago Bears ended. Payton was addicted to painkillers during his playing career and afterward, according to the book. During and after his career ended he used nitrous oxide.

While Pearlman points out many of the stories that made Payton a legend in Chicago for his work on and off the field, he paints a much different portrait of the man, writing his 23-year marriage to Connie Payton was “was a union solely in name.” Payton planned to divorce her after their children graduated from high school and for most of his post-playing career he did not live with the family.

An excerpt from the book is published in Sports Illustrated this week. The Payton family responded with a statement to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune:

Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect," reads the statement from Payton's wife Connie, his family and the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. "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."

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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