, LOUISVILLE, United States, Jun 6 – The family of boxing legend Muhammad Ali on Sunday accompanied his body back to his hometown Louisville, ahead of a public funeral procession and service expected to draw huge crowds in honor of “The Greatest.”
Former president Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal are among those due to speak Friday at a memorial in a sports arena in the Kentucky city where Ali – a three-time world heavyweight champion – grew up and threw his first punches.
- The charismatic Ali, a dazzling fighter and outspoken civil rights activist who became one of the 20th century's most towering figures, died on Friday at age 74 after health problems complicated by a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
- "Ali is now home," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted.
- A private plane carrying the casket and Ali's relatives arrived in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, from Arizona, where he died.
The charismatic Ali, a dazzling fighter and outspoken civil rights activist who became one of the 20th century’s most towering figures, died on Friday at age 74 after health problems complicated by a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“Ali is now home,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted.
A private plane carrying the casket and Ali’s relatives arrived in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, from Arizona, where he died.
The casket was loaded into a hearse and taken to a local funeral home, where dozens of fans were waiting to show their support, local CBS affiliate WLKY reported.
Also on Sunday, interfaith services were held at Louisville’s Islamic Center in Ali’s honor.
Fischer told AFP that the city – whose residents have left flowers, balloons and tributes at Ali’s childhood home – was ready for a massive celebration to honor its most famous son.
“The Champ was a supernatural figure who crossed all kinds of boundaries, from athletics to arts, to humanitarian activities, from black to white, from Christians to Islam, and he belongs to the world,” he said.
“There will be people coming from all over.”
The mayor said plans for Ali’s last farewell had been in the works for “quite some time,” and that the city – host of horse racing’s elite Kentucky Derby, which draws crowds of nearly 200,000 – was set to “handle big crowds.”
After a small family funeral on Thursday, Ali’s coffin will be transported Friday through the streets of Louisville, before a private burial and the public memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center.
The procession has been organized to “allow anyone that is there from the world to say goodbye,” family spokesman Bob Gunnell told reporters.
More details about the ceremonies were to be revealed at a press conference in Louisville on Monday.