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Mississippi's 50 Greatest Sports Figures

Sports Illustrated This list of the top 50 greatest 20th-century athletes originally appeared in the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated. Have someone to add to SI's list? Click here to submit your choices.

20th Century Top 50
Rank Profile
1 Walter Payton, Columbia
No one was sweeter: holds NFL record for career rushing yards (16,726); also one of the game's best blocking backs.
2 Jerry Rice, Crawford
In 1984 set NCAA single-season record for TD catches (28); only NFL player with 1,000 receptions, 15,000 receiving yards, 150 TD catches.
3 Lance Alworth, Brookhaven
Had more than 1,000 yards receiving every year from 1963 to '69; led AFL in TD receptions three times.
4 Frank (Bruiser) Kinard, Jackson
Tackle was first football All-America at Ole Miss, in 1936; first player to earn all-league honors in both AAFC and NFL.
5 Archie Manning, Drew
Finished in top four in Heisman voting in 1969, '70 at Ole Miss; passed for 23,911 yards in NFL.
6 Margaret Wade, Cleveland
Coached Delta State women's hoops team to 51-game winning streak and AIAW titles in 1975, '76, '77; NCAA women's player of the year trophy bears her name.
7 Brett Favre, Kiln
Leader of Packers' resurgence is only player to win three consecutive NFL MVP awards.
8 Jake Gibbs, Grenada
Led Ole Miss to 1960 national crown by running for both TDs in 14-6 Sugar Bowl win over Rice; played parts of 10 seasons in majors with Yankees.
9 Lusia Harris-Stewart, Greenwood
Three-time All-America at Delta State; top player on 1975, '76, '77 AIAW basketball champs.
10 Charlie Conerly, Clarksdale
Finished fourth in 1947 Heisman voting with Ole Miss; threw for 19,488 yards, 173 TDs in 14 seasons with Giants.
11 Calvin Smith, Bolton
Two-time world track champion in 200 meters also held world mark in 100; won Olympic gold in 4100 relay in 1984.
12 Ruthie Bolton-Holifield, McClain
USA Basketball Women's Player of the Year in 1991; All-WNBA in '97 with Monarchs.
13 Willie Brown, Yazoo City
Had 54 career interceptions for Raiders; locked up Super Bowl XI win with 75-yard interception return for TD.
14 Willye White, Greenwood
Five-time Olympian got silver medal in long jump at 1956 Games and another in 4x100-meter relay in '64.
15 Lem Barney, Gulfport
Intercepted 27 passes in career at Jackson State; had 10 as Lions rookie in 1967; seven-time All-Pro.
16 Jennifer Gillom, Oxford
Second-leading scorer in Ole Miss women's basketball history; averaged 20.8 points for WNBA's Mercury in 1998.
17 L.C. Greenwood, Canton
Had three sacks for Steelers in Super Bowl X; appeared in six Pro Bowls.
18 Johnny Vaught, Oxford
Took over 2-7 Ole Miss football team in 1947 and went 9-2 in first year; won six SEC crowns, national titles in '60 and '62.
19 Ralph Boston, Laurel
Broke Jesse Owens's 25-year-old long jump record in August 1960; won Olympic gold two weeks later; took silver at '64 Games, bronze in '68.
20 Ron Polk, Starkville
Winningest baseball coach in SEC history took Mississippi State to five College World Series from 1976 to '97.
21 Wilbert Montgomery, Greenville
Scored 37 TDs as freshman at Abilene Christian in 1973; rushed for more than 1,200 yards three times with Eagles.
22 Purvis Short, Hattiesburg
Averaged 23.7 points at Jackson State from 1974 to '78; scored 59 for Warriors against Nets in '84.
23 Jackie Slater, Jackson
Set NFL record for linemen by playing in 259 games with Rams from 1976 to '95.
24 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Gulfport
The former Chris Jackson averaged 30.2 points as LSU freshman in 1988-89; 15.2 ppg in eight NBA seasons.
25 Harold Jackson, Hattiesburg
Jackson State product hauled in NFL-best 62 passes for 1,048 yards in 1972 for Eagles; also led league in receiving yards (1,116) in '69.
26 Bill Foster, Lorman
Won 26 straight games for Chicago American Giants of Negro leagues in 1926.
27 Erick Dampier, Monticello
Three-time All-SEC center led Mississippi State to its only Final Four, in 1996, averaging 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds; now with Warriors.
28 Mary Mills, Gulfport
Won eight straight state amateur golf championships; 1962 LPGA Rookie of the Year; won U.S. Open in '63.
29 Billy Shaw, Vicksburg
Bills pulling guard in 1960s; named to alltime AFL team.
30 Ray Perkins, Petal
All-America fullback at Petal High was Alabama receiving star; succeeded Bear Bryant as Tide coach in 1983; also coached Giants and Buccaneers.
31 Babe McCarthy, Starkville
Against orders of governor, who objected to playing against blacks, Mississippi State basketball coach sneaked team out of state so it could play in 1963 NCAA tournament; won four SEC titles in 10 years.
32 Larry Myricks, Jackson
Won long jump at 1980 Olympic trials, but boycott of Games wiped out gold medal chances; got bronze at '88 Games.
33 Dave (Boo) Ferriss, Shaw
Was 21-10 as rookie in 1945, for Red Sox; won 25 in '46.
34 Steve McNair, Mount Olive
Only NCAA player with 16,000 yards of total offense; 3,228 passing yards for Oilers in 1998.
35 Van Chancellor, Louisville
Made 14 trips to NCAAs in 19 years as Ole Miss women's basketball coach; won three WNBA titles with Comets.
36 Clarence Weatherspoon, Columbus
Alltime leading rebounder at Southern Miss; led Golden Eagles to 20-win seasons in 1989-90 and '90-91.
37 Litterial Green, Moss Point
All-America averaged 39.7 points as senior at Moss Point High in 1989; 17.7 ppg, 4.0 apg in career at Georgia.
38 Hugh Green, Natchez
State's top lineman at North High in 1976; won Lombardi and Maxwell awards at Pitt in '80; played in two Pro Bowls.
39 Bert Jenkins, Starkville
Coach won state-record 866 games and seven basketball titles at Gulfport High.
40 Antonio McDyess, Quitman
Averaged 25.8 points, 14.7 rebounds at Quitman High in 1991-92 and '92-93; one of six players in NBA with 20 ppg and 10 rpg in '98-99, with Nuggets.
41 Jim Gallagher Jr., Greenwood
Won 1993 PGA Tour Championship; has four other wins on Tour.
42 Jack Gregory, Okolona
Three-sport star at Okolona High had 21 sacks as defensive end for the Giants in 1972.
43 Marcus Dupree, Philadelphia
Rushed for 5,283 yards and 87 TDs at Philadelphia High from 1979 to '81; spent a year at Oklahoma, two seasons in USFL and two with Rams.
44 Harol Lofton, Brookhaven
Won 15 letters at Brookhaven High and was All-America in football in 1950; All-SEC as a running back for Ole Miss in '53.
45 Sammy Winder, Madison
Led nation in scoring for Southern Miss in 1980 (20 TDs); led Broncos in rushing every year from 1983 to '87.
46 Slew Hester, Jackson
As president of USTA he oversaw U.S. Open's move from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadow in 1978.
47 Claude Passeau, Waynesboro
Starting NL pitcher in three All-Star Games in 1940s; 162 wins.
48 Eric Moulds, Lucedale
All-SEC wideout at Mississippi State; set Bills receiving record in 1998 (1,368 yards).
49 Bobby Collins, Laurel
Mississippi State quarterback from 1951 to '54; coached Southern Miss to first two Division I-A bowls, in '80 and '81.
50 Dot Easterwood Murphy, Starkville
Averaged 33 points at Starkville High; played basketball for U.S. in 1973 World University Games; assistant to husband, Gene, football coach at Hinds C.C.

Photograph by Donald Miralle/Getty Images


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