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Muhammad Ali prayer service staged in Louisville

ShowbizBy Sunday World
Muhammad Ali prayer service staged in Louisville

Fans of Muhammad Ali are attending a Muslim prayer service in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, today (09.06.16).

The two-day service was planned by the legendary boxer - who passed away on Friday (03.06.16), aged 74, from septic shock - in the years before his death.

Imam Zaid Shakir, who is leading the service, said that Ali's overarching ambition behind the service was for it to be a "teaching moment".

In excess of 14,000 people have tickets for the event, which is being staged at the site of Ali's last fight in Louisville, which took place in 1961, some three years before he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay.

In his address in the auditorium, Imam Shakir said Ali "was willing to sacrifice the fame, the lights, the money, the glamour, all of that, for his beliefs and his principles".

The funeral will continue into Friday with the service set to be attended by an array of world leaders and famous faces, including former US President Bill Clinton and actor Will Smith, who is a family friend and will help carry Ali's coffin.

Smith starred as the former champion in the 2001 movie 'Ali' and previously admitted that making the film left a lasting impression on him.

He said: "I'm profoundly changed.

"There's a bittersweet emotion that I feel from playing this role ... I want the world to be different because I was here. However lofty or crazy or delusional that may sound, I want people's lives to be better because I was here."

Smith also suggested at the time that the making of the movie marked the pinnacle of his career.

He confessed: "It's quite highly possible that I have peaked. I mean, I just can't imagine what else I could do beyond this. It's really a bittersweet kind of feeling."