Deion Sanders Was Jerry Rice’s Hated Rival—and Invaluable Teammate

The NFL's all-time receiving leader discusses how SI's Sportsperson of the Year influenced him as an opponent and later as a coworker and friend.  

Deion Sanders was once a person I detested. To clarify, Deion was not the man. Deion was the opponent. Deion is the opponent.  

Deion was one of the quickest defensive backs I had ever seen. Every play requires me to have a strategy in place.  

To get some distance from him, I'd have to double- or triple-move off the line. I knew it'd be difficult. However, it also inspired me. I hope he was motivated as well. As a competitor, you want to go off against the greatest.  

Deion transferred from Atlanta to the 49ers in 1994, and after years of opposing teams, we became teammates.  

We'd been to the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco two years in a row, and Deion was the missing piece we needed to return to championship form.   

He was that closed-off corner, as I could tell from facing him. It was now time for collaboration.  

We had different approaches to the game, but we both wanted to win the Super Bowl.   You find a method to collaborate since it is about teamwork.   

That's what we did. After that Super Bowl season in San Francisco, Deion joined the Cowboys, and we returned to being competitors.   

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