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Rags-To-Riches For Warner

Kurt Warner's story is complete - rags to unimaginable riches. The grocery clerk-turned-NFL MVP has a seven-year contract worth $46.5 million.

"I don't know if I've ever seen that many zeros before," the St. Louis Rams quarterback said Friday, a day after agreeing to a deal that makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history.

He has come a long, long way from a few years ago when he was stocking grocery store shelves and he and his wife, Brenda, needed food stamps to get by.

His $11.5 million bonus is also a franchise record, eclipsing the $7 million Marshall Faulk received as part of a seven-year, $45 million deal he signed last year.

"There were times I remembered praying that no matter what I had to do, just praying that the Lord would give me a job that I could take care of my family," Warner said. "I didn't care if I had to work till I was 90."

Brenda Warner, who attended a news conference to announce the signing, remembers the no-frills days.

"We loved each other and he loved the kids, so our dates really involved him playing with the kids," Warner said. "So it was a cheap date."

Now, there are riches beyond their wildest dreams.

"We just laughed," Brenda Warner said. "Our first two kids were born in poverty and our next two kids are born with, you know, riches. It's kind of a different world."

The Warners and young son Kade went to a restaurant Wednesday, the players' only night off this week.

"Kade was so loud," Brenda Warner said. "He wanted to pay for everybody's meal. The next day, we could pay for everybody's meal. It's funny how that works."

Warner's base salary is $358,000 this season, the two-year veteran's minimum he signed Friday so he could practice while negotiations continued. The Rams have a $6 million option, basically a second bonus, to pick up the final four years of the contract.

The first three years, Warner will make a total of $15.7 million, and the last four years are worth $30.8 million.

Warner and his wife are relieved at having the deal done. Brenda Warner didn't even ask about the final numbers.

"He just called and said `It's done,'" she said. "It's taken so long that the joy was kind of taken away from it."

Kurt Warner, who threw 41 touchdown passes last year, said it was difficult to block out the six months of sometimes frustrating negotiations that followed.

"When I was off the field, it was difficult," he said. "Contacting my agent a lt, him contacting me, trying to do some talks and trying to get this thing resolved quickly."

The signing is a bonus for the St. Louis Family Church, which the Warners attend. They plan to tithe, giving 10 percent of every paycheck.

"I just called our pastor last night and said how thrilled I am going to be to write that first tithing check," Brenda Warner said.

Kurt Warner said he felt a bit different when he hit the practice field Friday.

"I think there was a little bit of a weight taken off my back that this thing was resolved, this thing is over," he said. "I know I'm going to be here and I'm excited about that."

Trent Green, whose knee injury in the 1999 preseason opened the door for Warner, congratulated his teammate.

"That's excellent, I'm happy for him," Green said. "He deserves it."

Other teammates felt the same way.

"That's a lot of loot, but that's the way it should be," safety Keith Lyle said. "You throw 40 touchdown passes, that's not a fluke. What you put in, you should get out, that should be the golden rule of the NFL."

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