"Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton" by author Jeff Pearlman portrays the former Chicago Bear as "the hero no one knew." The Hall of Famer passed away in 1999 from a rare liver disease.
Excerpts from the book, which alleges Payton cheated on his wife, used drugs, and suffered from depression, were released Wednesday on Sports Illustrated's website.
Pearlman says he worked on the book for three years and spoke with nearly 700 people, but Payton's mother, brother and widow refused to be interviewed. Connie Payton says she won't read the unauthorized biography. The New York-based author said his purpose for writing the book was to show that while Payton was flawed there are lessons to learn from his legacy.
In the book, Pearlman talks about how Connie Payton employed a full time nanny who did most of the cleaning, cooking and rearing of their two children, Jarrett and Brittiney. But Connie says she was always a hands on mother.
"I probably sacrificed my marriage in some way by staying home and being with the kids and not following my husband around," she said.
Pearlman talks about the infidelity in the 23-year-marriage including the Hall of Fame induction in 1993 when Payton's assistant, Ginny Quirk, says she was instructed by Payton to make sure his wife and his mistress stayed apart.
"The introduction into the pro football Hall of Fame is supposed to be the greatest moment in his life. And, in truth, it was probably the worst... Four full days, and Lita [not her real name] and Connie were like two ships passing in the night. If Connie was scheduled to come late, I'd make sure Lita was there early. If Connie was there early, Lita would be there late. I can't describe the horror of that trip," Quirk says in the book.
Connie disputes aspects of the weekend and points out that they lived separate lives the last 10 years of their marriage. She also says it was a surprise to hear that Walter used drugs. Pearl man writes the running back would use a cocktail of Tylenol and Vicodin to ease the pain after being knocked around on the field.
"I didn't see him take any Tylenol so I didn't see anything stronger than that. He didn't believe in taking medicine," she said.
Pearlman says Payton's use of pain killers escalated after his retirement in 1987 and the sports icon became depressed and had thoughts of suicide following a failed bid to become a part owner of an NFL franchise.
"When that fell through, for a long period, I would say, the bottom sort of fell out in his life and, again, he became very, very depressed, very, very depressed. I thought it was sort. hardest part of the book to write about," said Pearlman.
Payton's widow says he did discuss taking his own life with her.
"Truly, if he wanted to, certainly he had the resources to do it," Connie said.
Connie says regardless of the Pearlman's book, she is comforted by the final words Walter shared with her.
"He truly knew in all of the ups and downs and of the people who he felt betrayed him that I was the only one who had his back to me. That made it all worth it," said Connie.
Connie says has been meeting with the doctors researching brain injuries in NFL players. Payton's brain wasn't studied but she believes after 13 years in the league and missing only one game it is possible he could have been suffering from a brain disorder because of his erratic behavior.
Connie is in the process of writing her own memoir.