Sports Muhammed Ali: Farewell to 'The Greatest' [PHOTOS]



Thousands of people gathered today to pay their final respects to Muhammed Ali as a jovial funeral procession, highlighted by fans who chanted and threw flowers, gave way to a more somber memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ali's memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center started at 3 p.m., an hour after it was originally scheduled.

In a eulogy, President Bill Clinton said he wept “like a baby” while watching Ali take the final steps to light the Olympic cauldron in 1996 in Atlanta, during his presidency. He also recalled a time when he caught Ali holding two fingers behind his head to form the shape of bunny ears.

Clinton said in Ali’s lifetime, he refused to be a victim and never wasted a day feeling sorry for himself after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali, told a story about a white Louisville police officer who helped a 12-year-old Cassius Clay when his bike was stolen, crediting him with “handing” Muhammad Ali a future in boxing.

"America must never forget when a cop and an inner city [kid] talk to each other, then miracles can happen,” Lonnie said, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

Billy Crystal talked about the first time he met Ali in 1974, when he was just getting his career in stand-up comedy started. After the show, in which he imitated the boxer, Ali approached him and gave him a “big hug,” Crystal said.

Attallah Shabazz, Malcom X’s eldest daughter read the names of Ali’s nine children, calling her relationship with Ali “treasured” due to his kinship with her father.

“Religions have different names, and yet they all contain truth, Shabazz said. “Truth expressed in different ways and forms and times. It doesn't matter whether you're a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe all people are part of one family.”

Senior adviser to the president, Valerie Jarrett, spoke on behalf of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who expressed their deepest regrets that they could not attend.

He was “not just a Muslim, or a black man, or a Louisville kid,” Jarrett said. “He wasn’t even just the greatest of all time. He was Muhammad Ali. The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke early on, reminiscing about Ali’s 1964 fight against Sonny Liston when he yelled to a crowded pack of reporters, “I’m the greatest!”

“He wrote his own title in the textbooks,” Hatch said.

Hatch also spoke of his close friendship with Ali and his wife, Lonnie, calling her “one of the great women of this world.”

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