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    Sanders lets Payton keep his throne...

    1998 Barry Sanders Final Career Game Worn Detroit Lions Helmet--Photo Matched! The championship ring. The Heisman and the Cy Young. The Gold Medal. There is no shortage of symbols of athletic supremacy--their pursuit is the very thing that makes sports compelling. But the all-time career record in something that really matters is unequivocal. Everybody knows that.

    There can be only one.

    But it's a different kind of greatness, and certainly a rarer kind, to choose the path nobody wants but you. No need to prove to everybody else what you've already proven to yourself. Listen to Frank Sinatra instead. My Way.

    When Barry Sanders made his July 27, 1999 announcement of his intention to walk away from the NFL at age thirty, less than 1,500 yards short of the all-time rushing record, the sporting world found itself unable to wrap its mind around Sanders' elementary logic, delivered in his farewell address:

    "The reason I am retiring is simple: My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it."

    That's it. In a sudden, shocking instant, one of the greatest careers in NFL history was over.

    For all but those whose job it was to bring Barry Sanders to the ground, or their fans, there had been nothing more dazzling in the NFL than a Barry Sanders run. That unparalleled synthesis of vision and agility was pure magic during his decade of domination. Instant acceleration. Physics-defying redirection. And then, once through that thinnest crack in the defensive line, pure, white-hot velocity. There is a video on the NFL's "YouTube" channel entitled, "Barry Sanders Top 50 Most Ridiculous Plays of All-Time." You could show that video to a person who had never seen a football game in his life, and he would understand Barry Sanders was something truly special.

    It is generally only Jim Brown that comes between Barry Sanders and the title of Greatest Running Back of All-Time, and certainly the context of the era in which each played command a tremendous role in any such determination. In the blood and mud and guts era of the circa 1960 NFL, Brown was undeniably supreme. But in the style of football that has dominated for the past half-century, it's Sanders, record or no record.

    So when this Detroit Lions helmet came back from Resolution Photomatching with images matching the very last game of Sanders' glorious career, we were absolutely floored. That elite attribution places it among the most significant game worn artifacts from the "modern" NFL ever to surface on the hobby's auction block.

    The helmet is sourced through a gentleman with long ties to the Detroit Lions organization, but its guarantee of authenticity is delivered through the various wounds to the shell that perfectly match game footage from the afternoon of December 27, 1998 at Ravens Stadium, where the Lions would fall to Baltimore to end their season. Sanders would deliver the final forty-one rushing yards of his ultimate career tally of 15,269, one of those runs a thirty-one yard burst that proved there was plenty of gas left in the tank when Sanders pulled a helmet off his head for the final time.

    That helmet exhibits solid game wear that allows for the definitive photo match, the team logo decal affixed on each side and Sanders' now-retired number "20" spanning the wide center striping on back. "Riddell AF-2" labeling appears at interior ear hole. Chin strap remains in place. LOA from Heritage Auctions.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2020
    29th-30th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 30
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