Where Sanders goes, teams win
Monday, November 15, 2004
By Fred W. Kiger
Special to ESPN.com
Sept. 21, 1998 - While Deion said he was trying to bury his Prime Time nickname, in no game did he ever live up to it more. On "Monday Night Football" against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., Sanders scored more points than eight NFL teams that weekend with two outstanding returns.
His 59-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter kick-started the Cowboys to a 31-7 victory. He caught a low, line-drive punt, retreated five yards, then reversed his field. Once Sanders got around the right side, he shaked and baked his way to the end zone. "I'm not like your ordinary punt returner," Sanders said.
Late in the fourth quarter, his 71-yard interception for a touchdown sealed the win. The scores sandwiched a lengthy absence in the second quarter when he was victimized by dehydration minutes after his first touchdown. After getting back on the field, he caught a 55-yard pass to set up another Dallas TD in the third quarter.
Sanders finished with 226 yards in punt return, interception return and receiving yards.
"Prime Time? I'm trying to bury that," Sanders said of the nickname he embraced before a religious conversion. "Prime time is God's time now."
Odds 'n' Ends
At 12, Sanders served as a batboy for the Fort Myers Royals, a
minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
The late Kansas City Chief linebacker Derrick Thomas remembered Deion in his younger days as "the ROTC commander in high school. He was a nerd."
In 1987, as a sophomore at Florida State, Sanders played in a Metro Conference baseball doubleheader in Columbia, S.C. In between games, he ran a leg for FSU's 4x100-meter relay team in his baseball pants.
As a Florida State senior, Sanders led the NCAA with a 15.24 punt return average and was seventh in interceptions with five, including two for touchdowns.
The New York Yankees selected Sanders in the 30th round of the 1988 free-agent baseball draft.
Sanders ran a 4.27 in the 40 yards for NFL scouts in 1989. When one scout complained that Sanders was wearing track shoes, Deion switched to tennis shoes and ran a 4.21.
In a 1990 game at Yankee Stadium, White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk clashed with Sanders after Deion quit running on a routine pop to the infield. When Sanders batted the next time, Fisk told him, "There is a right way and a wrong way to play this game. You're playing it the wrong way." Sanders was offended by Fisk's lecture.
Nike reportedly offered Sanders $900,000 if he played on television for the Falcons in their NFL game in Miami and then in Pittsburgh with the Braves in the 1992 baseball playoffs. Braves skipper Bobby Cox left Sanders on the bench.
National League president Bill White fined Sanders $1,000 for dumping three buckets of ice water on CBS analyst Tim McCarver, who had been critical of his trying to play football and playoff baseball on the same day.
Of the 1992 Pittsburgh-Atlanta playoff series, Pirates pitching coach Ray Miller said, "I wish Sanders had been playing more in the series. He's the only guy we've gotten out."
Sanders was placed on the Braves disqualified list in 1993 when he refused to rejoin the team after attending the funeral of his father. Many reported that dissatisfaction with playing time also served as a catalyst for his decision.
In 1994, Sanders was the only Braves player to miss two mandatory off-field functions: photo day and a luncheon with Atlanta businessmen.
He and former Falcons teammate Andre Rison were each fined $7,500 for their "slap-fest" during a SF-Atlanta game in 1994.
While celebrating with an animated dance after a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown in the same game against Atlanta, Sanders pulled a groin muscle that sidelined him for the second half.
Sanders' rap CD, "Prime Time," came out on Dec. 6, 1994. He co-wrote many of the 16 tracks.
In August 1995 Sanders made six versions of a commercial for Sega video football which had signed him for $2 million. Uncertain which team Deion would sign with, the spot was shot with Sanders in six different uniforms (49ers, Raiders, Cowboys, Broncos, Dolphins and Eagles.)
When Sanders signed with Dallas for $35 million over seven years, the $13-million signing bonus was the largest in NFL history. The deal meant that Sanders would make $600,000 a game, double what anyone else in the NFL was making.
When Sanders arrived for his first workouts with Dallas, he paraded through the locker room with a sign for the media that read, "Don't Bother Me."
In Esquire magazine in July 1996, writer Mike Lupica awarded "Deions," representing the most annoying people in sports.
The Cowboys determined in 1996 he was on the field for 50 percent of their offensive plays and 80 percent on defense.
Sanders probably was the first player to sit out a game due
to "bad karma" when he asked not to play at Shea Stadium in a 5-3 Cincinnati loss to the Mets on July 21, 1997. Sanders didn't want to play in New York, saying the city had too much "negativity that surrounds it."
Sanders appeared with rap artist Hammer in his "Too Legit To Quit" video and the two rapped together on "Straight to My Feet."
For awhile Sanders wore lucky boxer shorts under his football pants. They were green with large gold dollar signs.
He wears "MS" on his wristbands to remember his father, Mims, who was addicted to drugs and died in 1993 of a brain tumor.
While Sanders' swagger has not changed over the years, he has professed Christian beliefs since 1997, often raising his arms to the heavens after touchdowns.
Before each game, Sanders showers twice - once at home and again at the stadium. He says he "wants to go into the ballgame feeling clean."
Going into the 2000 season, Sanders had 44 interceptions in the regular season and five in the playoffs. He had caught 60 regular-season passes, including three for touchdowns.
With nine interception returns for touchdowns, Sanders is tied for second with Ken Houston and Aeneas Williams, three behind Rod Woodson.
Sanders has five interceptions in the postseason.
He has one sack in his career.
Sanders donated $1 million to the Potters' Church in Dallas, which he credits with leading him to salvation.
Sanders has two children, Diondra and Deion Jr., by his first wife Carolyn.
Sanders is married to Pilar Biggers, a model and actress.
In January 2000, Sanders signed a minor league contract with the Reds intending to return to the majors. However, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to fix a football injury and then hitting .200 (21-for-105) for Triple-A Louisville, he left the game in May.
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