Byline: David Haugh
CHICAGO _ When Thomas Jones was a boy growing up in the small coal-mining town of Big Stone Gap, Va., he wore a pair of tennis shoes just because Walter Payton endorsed them.
Wednesday night, Jones realized a lifelong dream of following in his idol's footsteps with the Bears.
The running back signed a four-year, $10 million contract, including a $3.5 million bonus, to become the starter for the team for which he grew up cheering from afar.
"This was just a great fit for me," Jones said in a news conference at Halas Hall. "This is an opportunity to show exactly what I can do."
The signing capped a first day of NFL free agency that was as frenetic for the Bears as it was fulfilling for Jones.
The Bears also signed backup quarterback Jonathan Quinn to a …