The Atlanta Falcons drafted Deion Sanders in the first round, fifth player overall, out of Florida State in the 1989 NFL Draft. His stardom in the NFL was apparent from his very first game when he returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in his NFL debut.
More of that spectacular play continued throughout his 14-season, 188-game career. Sanders who spent time with five different NFL teams scored a total of six touchdowns on punt returns, three TDs on kickoff returns, and returned nine interceptions for scores. The multi-faceted athlete also returned one fumble for TD and had 60 receptions for 784 yards and 3 TDs during his career with the Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-99), Washington Redskins (2000) and Baltimore Ravens (2004-05). In all, he recorded 53 career interceptions including five with the Ravens when he returned to the field after a three-year retirement.
A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s as both a cornerback and a punt returner, Sanders led the NFL in punt returns in 1998 with a 15.6 average. He also led the NFC in kickoffs in 1992 and interceptions in 1991 and 1993.
Despite his electrifying talents as a return man, Sanders was more widely regarded as a “shutdown corner” during his career. He was named first-team All-Pro nine times at cornerback in addition to receiving All-NFL acclaim by some media outlets as a kick returner in 1992 and as a punt returner in 1998. He was also elected to eight Pro Bowls during his career.
Sanders retired second all-time in interception return yardage (1,331) and tied for second for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a career (9) and a season (3). His career-high 303 yards gained on interception returns with the 49ers in 1994 was third best ever in the NFL at the time of his retirement. He also returned three picks for touchdowns (74, 93, 90 yards) that season to become the first player ever to have two 90-yard interception returns for touchdowns in the same season. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Sanders won two Super Bowls during his career. He started at right cornerback for the 49ers in their 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX and at left cornerback in the Cowboys 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
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