It should be no surprise that 14 years, three months and 28 days since he last carried a football for the Lions in the final game of the 1998 season, he remains in a class by himself.
Sanders won the final showdown vote against reigning NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson of the Vikings to be on the cover of the Madden25 video game. The vote was announced Wednesday night in New York.
It was old vs. new in the way voting was conducted to adorn the cover of the popular Madden game, and the special 25th cover went to a special player with skills seen once in a generation, if that often.
He carried that into retirement, and that’s why his popularity has endured over the years.
Instead of waning, Barry’s popularity might have grown. He has gotten more beloved and popular as time has gone on.
In 10 seasons with the Lions, from his rookie year of 1989 through the final game against the Ravens in Baltimore, Sanders had 3,062 carries for 15,269 yards. No player was ever routine. Every carry and every yard he gained -- even the carries that lost yards -- had fans slide to the edge of their seats and hold their breath.
The instant Sanders touched the ball, the show would begin. When he retired unexpectedly on the eve of training camp in 1999, the curtain came down on one of the most compelling careers of any athlete in history, and that created some anguish and disappointment among fans.
He left them wanting more, the same way Jim Brown did when he retired from the Cleveland Browns when still at his peak.
In that regard, Sanders was like a great performer in any endeavor. He departed on his own terms, and his brand never got tired. He never wore out his welcome on the talk-show circuit, or made himself a sideshow with outlandish comments and bizarre behavior.
In retirement from football, there is a mythical quality about Barry. He left fans wanting to see more. That’s why he always has gotten the warmest reception during the NFL draft when great players from the past introduce their team’s pick in the second round.
Chants of “Barry, Barry, Barry” fill Radio City Music Hall in New York, the same way they made the old Pontiac Silverdome rock during his playing days.
The cover of Madden 25 is another tribute to his lasting fame, and the appreciation fans have for him. And it’s not likely to diminish anytime soon.
Madden 50 is only 25 years away.