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Gone Fishin' With Deion Sanders

Another good one for ya—Charlie Pierce's 2000 Esquire profile of Deion Sanders:

Since 1989, when he came out of Florida State as a rookie cornerback, a neophyte center fielder, and a full-blown celebrity, Deion Sanders has produced as eccentric a body of work as that produced by any athlete. Having signed this season to play for the Washington Redskins, Sanders is now on his fourth stop in the NFL, which means he has played for exactly as many professional football teams as he has professional baseball teams. He is the only man ever to play in the Super Bowl and in the World Series. He's the first two-way starter in the NFL since 1962. As he grew older, he left baseball behind, and he transformed himself into one of the great defensive backs in the history of the league, but he has remained a full-blown celebrity.

He conspired in creating his own image. He admits freely that he deliberately fabricated "Prime Time," his gold-encrusted nom d'argent, which had its official public debut in a Sports Illustrated profile that was practically written in blackface, to help himself get rich. His entire career has been an exercise in trying to control the personality that he created. If it weren't for Prime Time, maybe he wouldn't have been associated willy-nilly with the I, Claudius atmosphere surrounding the Dallas Cowboys, when, in fact, the worst trouble with the law that Deion Sanders had ever had was a glorified traffic wrangle with a stadium security guard in Cincinnati and a trespassing bust that occurred when Sanders was discovered on private land where he'd gone to . . . fish.

If not for Prime Time, then, maybe the divorce wouldn't have been so ugly, and maybe he wouldn't have been there in Cincinnati contemplating, he says, putting an end to all of it. And maybe it was Prime Time who drove Deion Sanders to Jesus and drove him then to a new life with a new wife and a new baby and a new team and a new house here in Prosper. Anything's possible. Life's strange, and that's what's kept Scripture interesting all these years.

"They never give athletes credit for knowing who they are," he says. "As an athlete, you're in business. And I knew how to market my business. The Lord intended me to be different. He intended everyone to be different. I never tried to emulate anyone, ever. I was the first Deion Sanders, and I'll be the last Deion Sanders.

"I created something that could command me millions of dollars, and it served its purpose. But I was playing a game, and people took it seriously." He took it so seriously, if you believe him now, that he needed to be rescued in one of the oldest ways of all.

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