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Former President Clinton will give eulogy for Ali at interfaith service

June 05, 2016 11:01 IST
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Muhammad Ali

IMAGE: Former President Bill Clinton with late Muhammad Ali. Ali was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. The medal was established by President Richard Nixon in 1969 to recognize exemplary service by any citizen. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Newsmakers/Getty Images.

Former American President Bill Clinton will be among those giving a eulogy for Muhammad Ali at an interfaith service in the boxer's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, the family announced.

Comedian Billy Crystal and sports journalist Bryant Gumbel will also offer eulogies for Ali, who died on Friday at age 74 and the cause of death was ‘septic shock due to unspecified natural causes’.

In a speech in California, Clinton reflected on watching Ali light the Olympic torch in Atlanta while his hands shook from Parkinson's Disease.

"Once the most graceful, powerful athlete in the world, with his hands shaking, holding on, he did his job," Clinton said. "And in the very end he was actually astonishingly good humored about the burden of his later years. So by the time he died, who he was as a person was greater than his legend."

Ali's body will return to Louisville with his family and a private service will be held for immediate family on Thursday, family spokesman Bob Gunnell said at a news conference.

The family will be joined by an imam at the funeral home for prayers, Gunnel said.

A procession on Friday will lead through the streets of Louisville, traveling down the street named after him and passing through Ali's old neighborhood. The procession will end at Cave Hill cemetery, where he will be laid to rest.

An interfaith service open to the public will be held. The service will be led by an imam and will include clerics from multiple religions.

"This entire service was his specific request," Gunnell said. "He truly loved all people."

Ali's daughter Hana Ali said in an emotional post on Twitter, "All of us were around him hugging and kissing him and holding his hands, chanting the Islamic prayer. All of his organs failed but his HEART wouldn't stop beating. For 30 minutes... his heart just keep beating. No one had ever seen anything like it. A true testament to the strength of his Spirit and Will!"

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