leaders, celebrities to pay final tribute to Muhammad
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[June 10, 2016]
By Steve Bittenbender
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) -
World leaders, celebrities, boxing fans and people who
admired Muhammad Ali as a man will gather on Friday in
his Kentucky hometown for one last goodbye to a towering
global figure who died a week ago at age 74.
Mourners will line the streets of Louisville for a funeral
procession starting at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) that will bring his
body to Cave Hill National Cemetery for a private burial.
Thousands of people will then fill the KFC Yum Center for a
memorial service featuring eulogies by former U.S. President
Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal, beginning at 2 p.m.
(1800 GMT). Jordan's King Abdullah and Turkish President Tayyip
Erdogan are expected to be among the dignitaries at the sports
arena for the service.
Crystal could reprise parts of his routine called "15 Rounds," a
tribute to the three-time heavyweight boxing champion that the
comedian first delivered in 1979. In it, Crystal tells Ali's
story through masterful imitation of the champ and the late
sportscaster Howard Cosell, an important early defender of Ali
during his most controversial days.
Ali's pallbearers will include actor Will Smith, who earned an
Oscar nomination for playing the title role in the 2001 film
"Ali," and former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis.
"Now as the world continues to flow into our city, it's time for
us to send him off tomorrow with great class and dignity and
respect," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told a news conference
on Thursday. "The world will literally be watching tomorrow as
Muhammad's processional and memorial service are broadcast to a
The mayor encouraged people to throw flowers and bring "smiles
and maybe a tear or two as well."
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The procession will pass by Ali's boyhood home on the West End,
traditionally an African American section of town, and the Muhammad
Ali Center, a museum in the center of the mid-sized city, which is
also home to the Kentucky Derby.
On Thursday, a Muslim funeral for Ali drew thousands of mourners who
prayed over the body of a man who battled in the ring and sought
peace outside it.
Speakers referred to him as "the people's champ" who was
praised for advancing the cause of black Americans during and after
the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Others admired him for
making Islam more acceptable and giving U.S. Muslims a hero they
could share with mainstream America.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing
by Toni Reinhold)
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