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September 14, 2000
Muhammad Ali goes to the racesPaul Majendie
Muhammad Ali went to the races on Thursday and sparked a media frenzy.
"You have all heard how pretty I am. Now you can see for yourself," said the sporting superstar as photographers and reporters scrambled for a chance to meet the man hailed as the greatest sportsman of the 20th century.
He may no longer float like a butterfly and sting like a bee but the boxer fighting the ravages of Parkinson's Disease has an extraordinary effect on people.
Ali, putting in a brief appearance at Rosehill racecourse for a media reception to mark the Sydney Olympics, provoked bedlam.
Any attempt at an ordered news conference was rapidly abandoned,
The boxer, who touched heartstrings around the world at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 when he falteringly lit the Olympic flame, stayed serene in the eye of the media storm. Sitting in his chair, he watched with almost quizzical amusement.
Nothing phased the man who captured Olympic gold at the Rome Olympics and then astonished the world in 1964 when he fulfilled his boast and knocked out Sonny Liston to land the heavyweight title of the world.
The hands may be clasped firmly together now to stop them shaking but he still shows the sparkle and wit of the brash young boxer who took on the world and won.
Moving comfortably into what looked like a familiar routine, he told reporters surging forward to meet him: "Hello this is me. The greatest of all time."
Judging by the ecstatic reception, few would argue with the victor of that historic "Thrilla in Manila" against Joe Frazier that was hailed after 14 rounds by those who saw it as the greatest boxing match in history.
Answering questions was completely pointless. It was bedlam in the beer tent at Rosehill.
"God bless you all and stay out of trouble," he told the adoring throng. "Don't be a fool, stay cool," he told them. The message fell on deaf ears
With his wife pleading for a little space and police moving in rapidly to create a corridor through, Muhammad Ali made his way to his car to cries of "You're the man" and "Thanks for coming".
And sadly he left before the big race at Rosehill where number seven on the card offered the perfect topical tip for punters in a country which loves betting, beer and sunshine in equal measure -- the horse was called Tyson's Bite.
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