Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton

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Emmit Smith | Dallas Cowboys: Happy Birthday

Photo: Al Tielemans/SI

“[Walter Payton] once said that if anybody breaks his record, he hopes it is Emmitt because he would do it with the class and the dignity that the record represents,” said Eddie Payton, Walter’s brother, at the time that Smith eclipsed Sweetness’ mark of 16,726 yards. Only 5-foot-9, Smith did it with equal parts grit and talent, and on Dallas teams heavy with players who ran afoul of the law, he was a relative choirboy, which Payton would have really appreciated.

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