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Barry Sanders is your next Madden cover athlete

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Barry Sanders posing in front of Madden 13 (Credit: Getty Images)

The new Madden cover athlete is an old-school favorite.

In a battle of all-time running backs, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders outran league MVP Adrian Peterson to land the cover of Madden 25. Announced late Wednesday on ESPN 2’s SportsNation, Sanders nabbed 58 percent of the fan vote -- over 700,000 votes -- to take home the win.

"I am shocked, excited, humbled, elated. I am also proud to be the Madden 25 Cover athlete," Sanders tweeted.

Peterson was just as gracious in losing.

“Congrats to my guy Barry Sanders for winning the 2013 Madden Cover!” the Vikings star tweeted back. “Any other guy to take me down... it would've been a problem! Salute”

Over 40 million fan votes were tallied over the course of the cover athlete tournament, which featured a 64-player bracket comprised of current stars and past legends in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Madden franchise.

Sanders, 44, had to scurry past some high-profile names just to make it to the final round, including fellow running back Marcus Allen, Super Bowl darling Ray Lewis, legendary QB Joe Montana and his equally legendary favorite receiver, Jerry Rice.

It’s a fitting win for Sanders, who built a stellar career on top of a dizzying array of jukes and spins that often drew comparisons to what you might find in a video game. The Lions superstar rushed for over 15,000 yards and 99 touchdowns over a 10-year career, which ended abruptly before the 1999 season.

Some blame that sudden exit on -- what else -- Madden. Sanders appeared on the cover of Madden 2000 (albeit in the background behind Madden himself), which was released prior to the start of the 1999 season. That tale has long been a part of the hallowed 'Madden Curse' in which players who appear on the cover wind up hurt or otherwise incapacitated and therefore unable to play the following year.

But there's good news for Sanders this year. Last year's cover winner, fellow Lions player Calvin Johnson, absolutely tore through the waning power of the Madden Curse by having a remarkable season, breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving mark. Maybe it’s time to come out of retirement, Barry.

Madden 25 releases on August 27 for for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

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