Muhammad Ali was extolled on Friday as a boxer of incomparable grace, a magnetic entertainer and a man of conviction who gave a voice to the oppressed, as a two-day celebration of “The Greatest” came to a rousing end in his Kentucky hometown.
At an emotional memorial service at a Louisville sports arena, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal, Ali’s wife Lonnie and leaders of many of the world’s religious traditions delivered powerful tributes to the man who Clinton called a “universal soldier for our common humanity.”
“He decided at a very young age to write his own life story,” the former president said. “He decided he would never be disempowered.”
At the interfaith service, A-list celebrities and sports stars converged with thousands of ordinary people to hear Ali remembered as a man who went from Olympic gold medal winner in 1960 to three-time world heavyweight champion to an elder statesman suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Earlier in the day, an estimated 100,000 people came out to honor Ali on a hot and sunny day, chanting his name and throwing flowers along the 23-mile (37-km) funeral procession. At the end of the route, he was laid to rest in a private burial, one week after he died at the age of 74.