Sanders returns to limelight this weekend with induction

Friday, August 6, 2004

DETROIT -- When Barry Sanders gets his first glimpse of the sea of gold blazers at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday, it might make him want to do something he hasn't done in five years.

"I will probably feel like suiting up again," he said, laughing.

If Sanders did, he would probably juke any of the legends of the game that tried to tackle him.

Sanders, one of the most elusive and exciting running backs in NFL history, will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, along with John Elway, Carl Eller and Bob Brown.

Sanders ran for 15,269 yards in 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions. Then, within one average season of surpassing Walter Payton's rushing record, he suddenly and shockingly retired soon after his 31st birthday and just before training camp in 1999.

He will go into the Hall of Fame about two weeks after Ricky Williams' stunning retirement at the age of 27.

"Yeah, it is sort of eerie," Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Ricky is obviously younger than I was, but leaving the game is a personal thing that we all struggle with."

Fans across the state of Michigan struggled for a long time with the fact Sanders retired, and the way he did it.

Sanders announced his decision through a written statement released by his hometown newspaper, The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. He then eluded reporters as if they were trying to tackle him for four-plus years.

Last winter, Sanders had his first news conference since his retirement to answer questions and promote his new book. He acknowledged the way he retired was "a little clumsy," and shot down many rumors, including the one that the move was a ploy to be traded.

"Initially, I think some fans were disappointed, or angry, because they thought my retirement was about something manipulative," Sanders said. "But that's not the type of person I am."

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