Walter Payton may be the all-time leading rusher in the National Football League, but he never was known for his speed. He hopes to change that.
Payton, 33, who retired after last season with the Chicago Bears, will start a new career Saturday when he drives in the pro-celebrity auto race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"I'll tell you what, (racing) makes you a better driver on the street," Payton said. "It's not even fun any more to speed out there."
Payton got in some practice last year, when he was pulled over by police for driving 90 m.p.h. on a 35-m.p.h. stretch near the Bears' camp in Lake Forest, Ill. "It was 125 actually," Payton said. "I slowed down before he clocked me."
Another entrant in the race is comedian Jay Leno.
Said Leno: "The most disappointing thing is when you realize you're not as good as you thought you were. You see a race and you think, 'Hey, I could do that.' Then you get in the celebrity race and you get blown off the track by Helen Hayes."
Leno, who rides motorcycles on the street, said: "I fall all the time. You fall down, you get up. I dress for it. You can't wear thongs and boxer shorts with no shirt, or you'll get hurt."
During driving school at Willow Springs, Leno and other celebrities were told they'd have to wait because the track was being cleared at Turn 9. Said Leno: "They've gotta get the dead students off."
According to Peter May of the Hartford Courant, you can expect to see Bill Walton return to the Boston Celtics' roster any day now. The Celtics already are maneuvering to open a spot for him.
Before a recent game, Larry Bird spotted Reggie Lewis in street clothes. "How's your injury, Reggie? How you feeling, Babe? Better?"
Wrote May: "Lewis, in a move which stunned no one, ran like a gazelle in practice Thursday and came up with a pulled groin on Friday. 'They explained the whole situation to me,' Lewis said of his new ailment. 'I know what's going on.'
"What's going on, of course, is that the Celtics are laying the groundwork for Bill Walton's return."
Now-it-can-be-told Dept.: When author George Plimpton and Sports Illustrated collaborated on an April Fool's joke three years ago, catcher Ronn Reynolds, now with the Denver Zephyrs, was an unwitting accomplice.
Reynolds was the catcher in Plimpton's story about Sidd Finch, a baseball-throwing Tibetan monk who threw the ball at the incredible speed of 168 m.p.h.
A photo of Reynolds grimacing as he soothed his catching hand ran with the story, and he was quoted as saying, "I hope nothing like that guy ever comes down the pike again."
Reynolds claims they didn't let him in on the secret until later.
"They didn't give me any idea what they were up to," he said. "(The Sports Illustrated photographer) just asked if he could take a picture of me, which I thought was fine, until when he said, 'Can you hold your hand out like it hurts?' Then I knew something strange was going on."
Mark Calcavecchia, who missed the green jacket by one stroke last Sunday in the Masters, won by Sandy Lyle of Scotland, traces some of his success as a golfer to moving from Nebraska to Florida as a 13-year-old. "The greatest thing was to be able to play golf on Christmas afternoon," Calcavecchia said.
Doug Moe of the Denver Nuggets, on getting support as the NBA's coach of the year: "If it becomes a threat, I'll campaign against it. If I have to, I'll call all the media in the country and call them jerks."