Now, at 54, remnants of his Pro Football Hall of Fame career are on display downtown in the Motor City.
Sanders was on site Tuesday for the grand opening of Barry Sanders' Lefty's Cheesesteak restaurant, located just minutes away from Ford Field, the home of the Lions.
The restaurant is commemorating its new co-owner with unique memorabilia, which include rare photos and an autographed jersey on the wall as well as highlights from Sanders' high school, college and professional career playing on a mounted television screen.
There is also a giant mural of his likeness with action photos of his Lions playing years as well as his No. 20.
"Again, for me, it's just trying to capitalize on what I've been able to do in Detroit and also just take advantage of the great opportunity and really be a part of what's been happening down here in Detroit," Sanders told ESPN. "Just to see the transformation, it's a common word that you hear and how far we've come in the last five to 10 years, so really being a part of that was important. And so, that's one of the main reasons why we are down here right in the middle of everything."
Today was the grand opening of @BarrySanders' Lefty's Cheesesteaks just minutes away from Ford Field at 28 W Adams Ave. There is unique memorabilia inside, which include a mural, rare photos, an autographed jersey as well as ongoing highlights from his career on a mounted screen. pic.twitter.com/uwHmPl9FrO— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) August 9, 2022
Sanders is a brand ambassador for the restaurant, which has numerous sites throughout the Metro Detroit area. The idea of creating his own personalized building was presented by Lefty's owner and founder Sam Berry, who grew up rooting for Sanders and the Lions.
"I always do everything for the city. I was born and raised here in Detroit, Michigan," Berry said. "Barry Sanders is a legend, and we're trying to expand our footprint within the country. We just always want to be recognized as a Detroit-based company."
On the eve of the team's HBO "Hard Knocks" debut, Sanders also returned to the Lions' Allen Park practice facility for a visit on Monday, and he continues to root for his former franchise as it tries to regain relevance under coach Dan Campbell.