Pat Nevin, 54, the ex-Chelsea and Motherwell winger, said he was on a busy tube one night after a match when a rival supporter demanded to know his identity.
Nevin then put on a fake accent and denied who he was but was left terrified when the man, believed to be a Spurs fan, pulled a knife on him.
In a desperate bid to save himself from being attacked, he punched the man and fled from the carriage.
Nevin, who won 28 caps for Scotland in his 20-year career, was speaking out after ex- Liverpool defender turned Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, 40, was suspended by the broadcaster after spitting on a 14-year-old girl from behind the wheel of his Range Rover after being taunted following the Anfield side’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.
In an interview with the BBC Radio 5 Live, Nevin, was asked about the provocation high-profile people in the public eye can face.
He replied that there was always going to be taunts made by rivals but that football players should know how to react to situations and try and ignore it if they can.
He added: “You have got to try and reign it in but sometimes it is impossible and I’ll be honest, there was a time when I didn’t.
“Someone did have a knife at me at the time and I did smack him one but it has always been thus and it has always been there.
“I was on a tube back from a game and one of the supporters of the opposition team said ‘you’re Nevin aren’t you?’ and I put on an accent and pretended not to be and he pulled a knife on me.
“I then smacked him one and got off my mark because I had to save myself.
“It has always been there but you have to be sensible and you know when to take the risks and you know when you’ll get caught out but it is very, very rare.
“But there is a clear difference between banter and a life threatening situation.”
Nevin had previously described how rather than drive to his West London home after a game he would simply tuck his boots under his arm and get the tube.
Speaking about his tube journey home after the Scotland -England game in 1986 Nevin said: “I walked out of Wembley with a bag over my shoulder. The crush of fans had gone but there was still quite a few, although they were mostly Scottish so I felt comfortable. But no-one recognised me.”
Footage of Carragher spitting at the girl emerged at the weekend.
The former Champions League winner has repeatedly apologised on Twitter and in television interviews for his conduct which he insists was a “moment of madness”.
Carragher has spoken to the family involved, including the girl to say sorry.
But the victim’s family say he should not lose his job because they believe he is genuinely sorry for his actions.