Smith and Rice, both Super Bowl MVPs, were eligible for the first time, as were wide receiver Tim Brown, quarterback Rich Gannon, running back Eddie George, defensive back Aeneas Williams and place-kicker Gary Anderson.
They were among 131 players, coaches and contributors on the list of nominees.
Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, gained 18,355 yards on an all-time high 4,409 attempts.
He was the 17th overall pick by the Cowboys in the 1990 NFL Draft and became the first player in league history to rush for 1,400 yards in five straight seasons and the first with 10,000 career rushing yards and 400 career receptions. He scored 164 career rushing touchdowns.
Rice is the NFL's all-time leading receiver with 22,895 receiving yards on 1,549 catches with 197 touchdown receptions in 20 seasons.