Top 50 Falcons: No. 3, Deion Sanders

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 3 is cornerback Deion Sanders.

Years played for Falcons: One of the most polarizing athletes of the 20th century, Deion Sanders began his Hall of Fame career right here in Atlanta. “Prime Time”, “Neon Deion”, whatever you want to call him, one word can easily sum of the two-sport star’s athletic career: electrifying. The high-stepping Sanders could do it all. The two-time consensus All-American out of Florida State was drafted fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1989 NFL Draft after the New York Yankees plucked him in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB Draft. Sanders played from 1989-93 with the Falcons.

Jersey No.: 21

Former Falcons cornerback and Braves outfielder Deion Sanders remains only player to play in a World Series and Super Bowl. (AJC)

His impact on the team: Sanders returned his first-ever punt 68 yards for a touchdown in the 1989 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams; the first of Neon Deion’s six punt return touchdowns in his career. Just five days earlier, Sanders hit his second career home run with the New York Yankees and drove in four runs during his three-hit performance. During his rookie season, Sanders quickly staked claim to being the best corner in the game with his ball skills and unmatched closing speed. He would intercept five passes as a 22-year-old and would finish his Falcons career with 24 interceptions. Deion would finish his career with 53 picks, good for 24th all-time. From ‘89 until he left following the ‘93 season, Sanders was indeed prime time television. He could swing the momentum of a game anytime the ball touched his hands. In the Falcons’ thrilling 27-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in overtime, Atlanta’s first playoff win since its first appearance back in 1978, Sanders played a key role by picking off a Bobby Hebert pass and sprinting back 31 yards to give the Falcons good field position. He played for the Braves from 1991 through the middle of the ‘94 season and tried to become the first player ever to participate in an NFL game and major league baseball game on the same day. In ’92, Sanders played in an early afternoon game against the Dolphins and then was flown privately to Pittsburgh for that’s night National League Championship Game No. 5 against the Pirates. But while he was in uniform, he never entered the game. He is the only player to ever to play both in the Super Bowl and World Series. He won Super Bowls in both San Francisco and Washington and finished his career with 53 interceptions.

On style and football: “If you look good, you feel good, if you feel good, you play good, If you play good, they pay good.” (

On his defensive prowess: “Water covers two-thirds of the Earth. I cover the rest.”

On his personality: “They don’t pay nobody to be humble. Some people will come out to see me do well. Some people will come out to see me get run over. But love me or hate me, they’re going to come out.” (

Where he is now: The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is now 48. He is a football analyst for the NFL Network and entered the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2010.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith

49: Michael Haynes

48: Jonathan Babineaux

47: John Zook

46: Ken Reaves

45: Lynn Cain

44: Justin Blalock

43: Bobby Butler

42: Tim Mazzetti

41: Buddy Curry

40: Scott Case

39: Jeff Merrow

38: Elbert Shelley

37: Matt Bryant

36: Alge Crumpler

35: Michael Turner

34: Ray Buchanan

33: Chris Hinton

32: Terance Mathis

31: Devin Hester

30: Don Smith

29: Greg Brezina

28: Chris Miller

27: John James

26: Bob Whitfield

25: Rolland Lawrence

24: Alfred Jenkins

23: Billy Johnson

22: Chris Chandler

21: Morten Andersen

20: John Abraham

19: George Kunz

18: Jamal Anderson

17: Keith Brooking

16: R.C. Thielemann

15: Tony Gonzalez

14: Andre Rison

13: Julio Jones

12: Roddy White

11: Steve Bartkowski

10: Michael Vick

9: Bill Fralic

8: Gerald Riggs

7: Matt Ryan

6: Jesse Tuggle

5: Jeff Van Note

4: Warrick Dunn and William Andrews

3: Deion Sanders

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