A new book about the life of former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton — the late Hall of Famer who was an integral member of the 1985 Super Bowl championship team — paints a somber portrait of the player known as “Sweetness.”
The biography by author Jeff Pearlman, “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” claims the NFL legend was a drug abuser and a philanderer who was at times suicidal, according to portions of the book posted on Sports Illustrated’s website, SI.com.
The passages depict Payton’s battle with drugs, including Vicodin, Tylenol and even laughing gas, with quotes from Bud Holmes, Payton’s agent: “I’d see him walk out of the locker room with jars of painkillers, and he’d eat them like they were a snack.”
SI.com’s excerpts of the book detail examples of Payton’s struggle with drugs, claiming he kept tanks of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and shared it with his Bears teammates. The excerpts also include claims from Holmes and others that Payton threatened to commit suicide.
Pearlman’s book also details claims about Payton’s infidelity. It says Payton’s longtime mistress attended his 1993 Hall of Fame induction ceremony and stayed at the same hotel that his wife and children were in.
Payton’s widow Connie Payton issued a statement in response to the book, saying she was "saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility."
"Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect," she said. "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."
Pearlman has authored several books about sports. His biography of Payton comes out Oct. 4, according to USA Today.
Payton, who battled liver disease, died in 1999 at age 45 from bile duct cancer.