ATLANTA (AP) -- Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings is the first recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, honoring the memory of the league's all-time rushing leader.
Carter, a seven-time Pro Bowl choice, was cited Friday for his work with inner-city school children and other community activities
With Payton's widow, Connie, and brother, Eddie, beside him, Carter called the award ''a tremendously humbling experience.
''He was arguably the greatest player and the greatest competitor in the league,'' Carter said, referring to Payton, who died Nov. 1 at age 45. ''To receive an award named after him is tremendous.''
Payton was the 1977 winner of the award.
Carter said Payton had an impact on the players who followed him into the NFL.
''I watched Randy Moss put No. 34 on his shoes every game and the NFL fined him $5,000 every game,'' Carter said. ''He did what he wanted to do. Walter Payton's spirit lives on forever.''
League spokesman Greg Aiello said Moss had been fined $5,000 once, for waving a towel with 34 on it during a Monday night game. ''There was a league-wide moment of silence and the clubs were advised that no team other than the Bears should independently wear a decal or a patch,'' he said.
Carter has been a mentor to many younger Vikings players including Moss and Robert Griffith. He said he was at risk at one time in his career, struggling with chemical dependency and marriage problems, when he was claimed on waivers by the Vikings.
''When I came into this league, I was a little boy,'' he said. ''Now I am a man. ''The Vikings gave me a new life.'' He said he embraces the chance to change lives.
''Young people are looking for role models,'' he said. ''We can make an impact. We can make a difference in people's lives. It's time to stand up, make our stand that we can be different and make good choices.''
Carter, second in NFL history with 101 touchdown receptions and fourth in career receptions with 834, said there were 15 or 20 players in the league who could have won the award. ''A lot were deserving,'' he said. ''I'm ever so thankful they selected me. I wish I could be playing in the Super Bowl but nothing replaces this award. Fewer people win this.''
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