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Don Cornelius’ connection with Walter Payton

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The passing of legendary ‘Soul Train’ creator Don Cornelius brings to mind one notable athlete who was discovered on the show: the great Walter Payton.

Before Payton became one of the best running backs in NFL history, he appeared as a dancer on ‘Soul Train’ in 1973, displaying a dance he invented while he was playing football at Jackson State.

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Other celebrities who started as dancers on Soul Train include: Rosie Perez, Carmen Electra, Nick Cannon, MC Hammer and Fred “Rerun” Berry. It can be safely said that Payton went on to have the best NFL career of that group. Though perhaps he, like many of us, would have traded his Super Bowl ring to play Rerun on ‘What’s Happening!’

Cornelius’ death is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County coroner’s office. Sources said detectives believed the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound but stressed they were still investigating.

In a 2010 interview with The Times, Cornelius said he was excited about a movie project he was developing about ‘Soul Train.’

Payton died in 1999 of complication from cancer and a rare liver disease.

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-- Houston Mitchell


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