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Monday, August 18, 2008
Chicago Bears: Franchise player

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 
 JRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
 Walter Payton is a sentimental -- and worthy -- choice for greatest Chicago Bear.

Readers' pick: Walter Payton, RB

It's hard to argue with Sweetness as the Bears' best player -- for sentimental and other reasons. Payton, who died in 1999 -- 12 years after his retirement -- won with more than 80 percent of the vote.

When he retired, Payton was the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards and combined net yards. He once owned the league's record for most yards in a single game (275) as well. Everyone remembers Payton's smooth running style, but he was as durable as they come as well; he missed one game during his rookie season and then played 186 consecutive games.

I found it interesting, but appropriate, that Dick Butkus (7.9 percent) beat out Mike Singletary (2.4). In this type of exercise, often a disproportionate number of votes can go to the most recent player. Singletary was one of the best players of his era and came 20 years after Butkus, but Butkus has to rank as one of the NFL's all-time best linebackers.

It's good to see that Butkus' legendary toughness and transcendent personality has carried his popularity to another generation of fans.