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Deion Sanders takes call to Hall amid prayer, family, youth team

DALLAS -- Former Dallas Cowboys star Deion Sanders was the ultimate showman during his NFL career.

But his selection into the league's ultimate resting place Saturday afternoon wasn't celebrated by his patented high-step dance, but rather with prayer.

Rapper Snoop Dogg got the honor of making the announcement to Sanders' immediate and surrogate families during a youth football game between teams coached by both men at the Lancaster Recreation Center.

That moment brought it all home for the eight-time Pro Bowler known prominently as Prime Time.

His election along with six others into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 was indeed special to him because of the legends he was joining.

He said it was most satisfying because of what it meant to those close to him and the hundreds of kids he mentors.

"I did all that dancing and I did it with a purpose," Sanders said, still dressed in his Truth football team warm-up suit. "To have Snoop announce it at the game with my momma, my wife, my kids and my football team, that was a blessing. That was right where I wanted to be. I know it's not Prime Time like, but I'm elated for the people around me."

Also elected were running back Marshall Faulk, defensive end Richard Dent, linebacker Chris Hanburger, linebacker Les Richter, receiver Shannon Sharpe and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.

Former Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, who has five Super Bowl rings, didn't make the cut.

Sanders joins former Cowboys teammates Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin in the Hall of Fame.

Sanders was a shoo-in to be elected in his first time on the ballot after an illustrious 14-year career, during which he was one of the game's most dynamic players as a punt returner, receiver and cornerback. He is considered the league's first shutdown cornerback.

"It was a pretty foregone conclusion as far as I'm concerned," Smith said. "It would have been like highway robbery not having him in there. He's a great talent. He changed the game."

The 44 Hall of Fame voters gave him the final stamp of approval after a nearly 30-minute debate.

But Sanders said he never played the game for the validation of others.

He played to make money and make sure his mother would never have to work again and suffer the indignity of being a hospital custodian.

That's what drove him to success on the field with the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens and helped make him riches off of it.

"I don't want it to sound like I'm not grateful, 'cause I am," said. "I'm excited. I really am. I told my momma when I was 7 that I was going to be rich and make a lot of money. When I was ridiculed and mocked, I looked past that and thought of Momma. I said 'I will retire my momma for the rest of her life'. She hasn't worked since 1989. This means the world to her."

Sanders was driven to succeed by his mother, but he got into the Hall of Fame because of his game-changing abilities as a cornerback, electrifying kick returner and part-time receiver while becoming the league's only legitimate two-way player in the past 20 years.

Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760

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