MINNEAPOLIS -- Adrian Peterson fought to hold back tears as he stood on the sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday night.
Late in the fourth quarter of the Redskins' loss to Minnesota, the Vikings displayed Peterson, the greatest running back in franchise history, on the video board. His white, burgundy and gold uniform was insignificant to the 66,776 fans in attendance, who gave Peterson a roaring standing ovation for his decade-long contributions of 11,747 rushing yards, 97 touchdowns and countless memories.
It was "all love" between the two sides, Peterson said before the game, and in that instant the mutual affection appeared stronger than ever.
The "special moment" unfolded on a historic night for Peterson, whose 76-yard rushing performance moved him past Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson into sixth place on the NFL's all-time leading rushing list. He's now rushed for 13,701 yards in NFL 13 seasons -- yet another incredible feat in a Hall of Fame career. And to do so in Minnesota, where it all began in 2007, only made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
"It was bittersweet because you come here to win a game," Peterson said. "But just coming back and seeing the love that they still have for me and they showed, man, it felt good. It was definitely a great home welcome."
Check out photos of the Washington Redskins during their regular season Week 8 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Playing through an ankle injury, Peterson jump cut, galloped and bulldozed his way to 76 yards on 14 carries -- good for a 5.4-yard average -- and caught two passes for 27 yards. He accounted for nearly 48 percent of the offense Thursday night and has now totaled 275 rushing yards in three games since Bill Callahan became the interim head coach Oct. 7.
That's an impressive stretch for any running back, let alone a 34-year-old with more 2,900-career rushing attempts.
"He is a walking Hall of Famer; first ballot, no doubt in my mind," said Terry McLaurin, the Redskins' leading receiver this season. "It is pretty cool to be in my rookie year and to be walking with a guy like that. I remember coming in the first day and saying, 'That is Adrian Peterson.' He is such a good teammate and such a great leader. He gives me a lot of confidence as a rookie to go out there and be successful. I am glad he got to be honored in a place where he did so much."
McLaurin and Peterson were instrumental in setting up the Redskins' first field goal on their second possession, and on the next drive Peterson's improbable 14-yard scamper moved the Redskins to the fringe of the red zone. Another field goal tied the game at six late in the first half.
Peterson's second time in Minnesota was already going much better than his first, which came as a member of the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 11, 2017. It was Peterson's first season since the Vikings opted not to exercise the option on his contract, and he was stuck in a three-man backfield with Pro Bowlers Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, Jr. Peterson ran the ball just six times for 18 yards in a 29-19 Saints defeat.
Following a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals later that year, Peterson joined the Redskins right before the 2018 season to replace the injured Derrius Guice, and he subsequently recorded his eighth-career 1,000-yard rushing season -- making him the oldest 1,000-yard rusher since 1983. Peterson has rushed for 383 yards so far this season in place of Guice, who went down with a knee injury in Week. 1.
"He's a guy that I grew up watching, and to share the field with Adrian for the second time is something that I will carry with me forever," Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said on the midnight edition of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt on Thursday night. "He's a legend, he's going to be a Hall of Famer, and if you heard the chants that he was getting in the stadium when they showed him on the screen, it just shows the type of guy that he was in Minnesota."
"Tremendous guy, still has the talent and you saw that tonight," Cook concluded. "So much respect to Adrian, and one of the greatest I've seen."
For those who may question the validity of Cook's statement, look no further than back-to-back plays midway through the quarter Thursday night. With a defender blanketing him in coverage, Peterson caught a contested checkdown from Dwayne Haskins and then rumbled downfield, stepping out of a tackle and then carrying two defenders for a 21-yard pickup.
Upon returning to the huddle, Peterson got the call again on 1st-and-10 from the Washington 46-yard line. He took the hand-off right, shuffled into a sliver of space and exploded past a Vikings defensive back in the hole. Eventually, four-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith challenged him at Minnesota's 35-yard line, but he too was unsuccessful in bringing Peterson down. After a shoving match, Smith finally pushed Peterson out of bounds at the 25.
It was during this run, Peterson's longest of the season, that he passed both Bettis and Tomlinson for sixth all-time with 13,701 career-rushing yards.
"These guys that I'm passing are the ones that paved the way for me," Peterson said. "[LaDainian Tomlinson], a Texas guy, I loved LT growing up. And Bettis, big boy running that ball extremely hard. That's kind of how I got some of my motivation to be really aggressive, watching him banging in there. So to look up on the screen and see that I passed those guys, man, it's humbling."
Standing at the podium after the game, Peterson fielded questions about his homecoming. That was when he talked about getting choked up in the fourth quarter and how he caught himself singing and whistling Minnesota's official fight song, "Skol, Vikings," throughout the game.
The third inquiry centered around Peterson's post-playing days. The reporter mentioned Minnesota bringing back famous alumni in recent years and wondered if Peterson pondered what it would be like to return as one of the former Vikings greats.
Peterson is not ready to think about that just yet. God willing, he expects to play "at least three to four more years," which would set him up to climb further up the all-time rushing list. He's currently 400 yards behind former New York Jets standout Curtis Martin and 1,435 yards behind the seemingly ageless Frank Gore, who is in his 15th NFL season as a member of the Buffalo Bills. Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith sits comfortably at the top with 18,355 rushing yards.
However, Peterson is not obsessing over individual accomplishments or future milestones, either. He's hell-bent on doing his part to help his newest team rebound from a difficult first half of the season.
"We have what it takes offensively, defensively, special teams. [The defense is] doing a great job flipping the field, and we got to just got to feed off that. We have only won one game, but when you look at the guys in this locker room, we have the potential to roll off eight in a row."