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Jeff Pearlman‘s biography of Walter Payton is painting a disturbing photo of the respected Chicago Bears legend.
Pearlman interviewed more than 700 people for Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, which is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week and will be released in stores on Oct. 5.
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He says that at Payton’s 1993 induction into the Hall of Fame, his longtime assistant, Ginny Quirk, was told to keep his wife and mistress of five years apart. Payton had been living separately from his wife, Connie, since his retirement in 1988, but did not want to release that information publicly to save his public image.
That weekend, Paxton was “anxious” and stayed in his hotel suite with his mistress (who is referred to as a fake name, Lita Gonzalez). His wife and children stayed in a separate suite.
“The introduction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is supposed to be the greatest moment in his life. And in truth, it was probably the worst…. Four full days, and Lita and Connie were like two ships passing in the night. If Connie was scheduled to come late, I’d make sure Lita was there early. If Connie was there early, Lita would be there late. I can’t describe the horror of that trip,” Quirk says in the book.
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His agent, Bud Holmes, says Connie asked him to introduce him to Lita after the ceremony. They sat just a row apart.
“I introduced the two of them, and they sat and talked for a quite a while. They were friendly, chatty. There was no hair pulling. It was very civil,” Holmes says. Connie then told Lita, “You can have him. He doesn’t want me or the children.”
They were together until Payton died of liver disease and bile duct cancer in November 1999.
Pearlman also says that Payton was depressed and suicidal by the mid 1990s. He even wrote a letter to a friend in which he said he imagined himself murdering the people close to him and then killing himself.
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“Walter would call me all the time saying he was about to kill himself, he was tired. He was angry. Nobody loved him. He wanted to be dead,” Holmes says.
“He would call and say, you won’t see me when you get to the office tomorrow. Enjoy life without me,” added Quirk.
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