Elway, Sanders first-year eligibles on Hall of Fame list

Updated: October 7, 2003, 3:58 PM ET

CANTON, Ohio - John Elway, the NFL's second all-time leading passer, and Barry Sanders, the third all-time leading rusher, are among the first-year eligibles on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's nomination list for the Class of 2004.

Selectors will choose 23 semifinalists among the 67 former players, coaches and contributors who make up the preliminary list of nominees. Former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson and former Giants general manager George Young are automatic finalists because they finished in the top-six in the voting last year.

Elway is synonymous with the Denver Broncos, playing 16 years with the franchise and passing for 51,475 yards and 300 touchdowns, which is fourth all-time. Elway's passing yards are second only to Dan Marino's total of 61,361 yards.

Elway and Marino headed the famed quarterback class of 1983. Elway retired after the Broncos won the second of two straight Super Bowls in 1998.

Sanders appeared to be on his way to becoming the NFL's all-time leading rusher, recording 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns in 10 years with the Detroit Lions. However, he retired after the 1998 season and is third on the all-time list behind Emmitt Smith (17,354) and Walter Payton (16,726).

Other first-year eligible candidates joining Elway and Sanders for consideration are wide receiver Henry Ellard and cornerback Albert Lewis. Ellard had 814 receptions for 13,777 yards.

The list of semifinalists will be reduced to 13 modern-era candidates, including Carson and Young. That will increase to 15 finalists with the addition of two previously announced Senior Committee nominees, Bob Brown and Bob Hayes.

The voting for the Class of 2004 will be held on Saturday, January 31, the day before Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index