Payton's second place

JUDY OWEN

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

When Elfrid Payton takes a trip down memory lane, there's plenty of highlights that make him proud.

Playing with six different CFL teams in a 14-year career, the defensive end was named a division all-star seven times, a CFL all-star four times and was the league's defensive player of the year in 2002 while with Edmonton.

But there's one bad memory the 40-year-old still can't shake.

When his career ended after the 2004 season with Winnipeg, Payton was three quarterback sacks shy of the CFL career record of 157 held by Grover Covington.

The Bombers had brought him back to the fold in July, 2004 -- he also played with the team from 1991-93 and 2000 -- and he tallied five sacks.

Then Winnipeg released him in the off-season and no teams called.

"I regret that nobody allowed me to get that record, that I could have probably got with my eyes closed," Payton said from his hometown of Gretna, just outside New Orleans.

"I think me not being able to get the record, I think that don't say much for the league because when somebody's that close to a record, you're supposed to allow them to be able to get the record."

He could have called clubs and pleaded for a job, but he didn't want to.

Instead, he went to the Arena Football League and played with Tampa Bay in 2005.

"I think I still had three good years left in me, where I could have been in double figures in sacks. Easy, easy," Payton said.

He'll never forget his last CFL game, where former Calgary QB Khari Jones was his target.

"I sacked Khari Jones three times that game," Payton said. "(But) two of the times he fumbled the ball. He don't fumble the ball, I'd have had two more sacks and I'd have been one sack away from the record.

"Now you tell me, how bad that would have been? It's bad enough it's three, could have been worse yet."

But the man nicknamed SWAC (which stands for the Southwestern Athletic Conference he played college ball in) has moved past the disappointment and gotten on with life.

And he's doing it in style.

These days, the father of five daughters and a son aged 7 to 22 is cruising the streets of New Orleans as a limousine driver.

He got the job when a friend needed drivers during the NBA all-star game in New Orleans this spring, and enjoyed it so much he stopped driving local trucks and stayed behind the wheel of the more luxurious vehicle.

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ELFRID PAYTON FACTS

Position: defensive end

Born: Sept. 22, 1967

Birthplace: Gretna, La.

CFL career: Winnipeg (1991-93, 2000, 2004; Shreveport (1994); Baltimore (1994-95); Montreal (1996-99); Toronto (2001); Edmonton (2002-03)

Career highlights: second on CFL career list for quarterback sacks (154); seven-time divisional all-star; four-time CFL all-star; CFL defensive player of the year in 2002; went to four Grey Cup games, winning in '95 with Baltimore and 2003 with Edmonton when he was out with a season-ending knee injury.

What was your biggest achievement on the football field? "Probably the defensive player of the year I received at 35 years of age. The fact that I was able to do it at that age (showed) longevity and that I was still able to compete at that age at a high level."


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