Louisville, Jun 11: Muhammad Ali made his final journey through his hometown today past the little pink house where he grew up and the museum that bears his name as thousands of mourners along the route pumped their fists and chanted, “Ali! Ali!” for the former heavyweight champion of the world known simply as The Greatest. Also Read - Kentucky Shooting: Gunshots Fired During BLM Protest in Louisville, Police Probe Underway
A hearse bearing Ali’s cherry-red casket, draped in an Islamic tapestry, arrived at Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery in a long line of black limousines after a 19-mile drive via Muhammad Ali Boulevard that was both somber and exuberant. “He stood up for himself and for us, even when it wasn’t popular,” said Ashia Powell, waiting at a railing for the hearse to pass by on an interstate highway below. ALSO READ: Muhammad Ali funeral: Islamic Jenazah for boxing legend, fans prepare for final goodbye Also Read - Anonymous Hacktivists Return After George Floyd Murder, 'Expose' Files on Donald Trump's Child Trafficking-Princess Diana's Alleged Killing
A private graveside service was held in the afternoon, and was to be followed later in the day by a grand memorial service attended by more than 15,000 people, including former President Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal. Ali, the most magnetic and controversial athlete of the 20th century, died last Friday at 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The casket was loaded into a hearse outside a funeral home as a group of pallbearers that included former boxers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith filed out, along with Ali’s nine children, his wife, two of his ex-wives and other family members. Also Read - WATCH: Boxing Legend Mike Tyson Hints at Comeback in Latest Training Video
As the limousines rolled past on the way to the cemetery, fans chanted like spectators at one of his fights, stood on cars, held up cellphones and signs, ran alongside the hearse and reached out to touch it. They tossed so many flowers onto the windshield that the driver had to pull some of them off to see the road. Others fell silent and looked on reverently as the champ went by. “To me, he was a legend to this city and an example to people. I’m just glad to be part of this history, of saying goodbye,” said Takeisha Benedict, wearing an orange “I Am Ali” T-shirt. “Opening it up and allowing us to be part of it, we’re so appreciative.”
Among the hundreds gathered outside the funeral home was Mike Stallings, of Louisville, who brought his two young sons to bid farewell to the sports legend who grew up in Louisville as Cassius Clay. “I’ve been crying all week,” he said. “As big as he was he never looked down on people. He always mingled among the crowds.” Ali chose the cemetery as his final resting place a decade ago. Its 130,000 graves represent a who’s who of Kentucky, including Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders. Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said he will have a simple headstone, inscribed only “Ali,” in keeping with Islamic tradition.