LOUISVILLE, June 10: Muhammad Ali made his final journey through his hometown today in a funeral procession for The Greatest as thousands of mourners lined the streets where the future heavyweight champion of the world once chased school buses in hiking boots to train for his fights.
His cherry-red casket, draped in an Islamic shroud, was loaded into a hearse as a group of pallbearers that included former boxers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith left the funeral home in a double file. Ali�s nine children, his wife, two of his ex-wives and other family members joined the motorcade.
The 17-car motorcade set out for a Louisville cemetery on a 19-mile route that was expected to take Ali�s body past his boyhood home, the gym where he first learned to box and the museum that bears his name, by way of Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Fans tossed flowers at the hearse and scattered rose petals along its path. Some chanted, �Ali!� Others were quiet and reverent as the champ went by.
Ali was to be laid to be rest around midday � his headstone inscribed simply �Ali� � in a private graveside ceremony, followed in the afternoon 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. A traditional Muslim funeral service was held on Thursday, with an estimated 6,000 admirers arriving from all over the world.
Today, Takeisha Benedict and four co-workers were colour-coordinated in orange �I Am Ali� T-shirts as they waited along Muhammad Ali Boulevard to pay their respects as the hearse went by. � AP