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Three months after retiring from professional football as the leading rusher in NFL history, Walter Payton has exchanged his helmet and pads for a set of white walls.

And Payton, 33, already is applying his winning philosophy to his newly adopted hobby of racing cars."You don't worry about people who are ahead of you or behind you," Payton said. "Your concentration has to be on what you're doing.

"Once you lose that concentration, that's when things go awry."

After playing 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears, Payton plans to make his debut in auto racing next Saturday in a pro-celebrity race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"The problem with these celebrity races is that it's embarrassing when you get lapped by someone like Helen Hayes," said comedian Jay Leno, who also has entered the race.

To prepare for the race, Payton has been getting instruction and practicing at a track north of Los Angeles.

"Right now, Walter has very good car control," said Danny McKeever, Payton's instructor. "He's a little rough around the edges, but we're working on that. I have no doubt that he'll be a very smooth driver."

But Payton said auto racing was just a hobby. His goal is to purchase an NFL franchise.

"My desire is to own an NFL team, and once that happens, then my goal is to take that team from No. 30 or whatever it will be to No. 1," Payton said.

"Racing is something I can do three or four times a year. All my attention and energy has to be dedicated to my team."

But Payton said in the short time he has been pursuing the auto racing, it has made him a law-abiding citizen. Last year, Payton was pulled over by police for driving 90 mph in a 35 mph zone near the Bears' camp at Lake Forest, Ill.