Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74, on Friday night in Arizona, having suffered with Parkinson's disease for 32 years.

Reverend Charles Elliott pays tribute to Louisville's 'great hero' Muhammad Ali

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Outside 3302 Grand Avenue, the suburban childhood home of Muhammad Ali, those that knew him better than most gathered on Saturday to remember the 'Louisville Lip'.

A stream of fans and friends, including some that remembered the boy who became boxing's biggest superstar, passed by the small single-storey, two-bedroom home, lovingly restored in recent times to its bold, pink colour of which Ali's late mother Odessa was so proud.

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Reverend Charles Elliott, of the King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, had known Ali since the champion was just another teenager from West Louisville among his congregation, going by his birth name of Cassius Clay.

They formed a close bond over time, and it was Rev Elliott's King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church which provided the Jesus and a Job team that carried out much of the hard graft of restoring the run-down property.

The 81-year-old pastor, a former close associate of the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, said of the restoration project: "W e put it back just like it was. When he was younger, he brought home to his mother a pink Cadilllac and she decided the house should be the same colour.

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"There were lines of people outside there today.

"He was a great hero and we're going to miss him but he's out of his misery now.

"He's at peace now."

Ali died at the age of 74, on Friday night in Arizona, having suffered with Parkinson's disease for 32 years.

Reverend Elliott recalled how the young Clay, in the early 1960s, had made use of his growing wealth to support the community.

"I've known him just about all his life," he told Press Association Sport. "He was a member of my church as a boy and he helped us in many areas.

"He helped me with my Feed The People programme after a little girl died in starvation.

"I was going to feed them Monday and Friday and he came into church and said, 'Here's some money, feed them every day'.

"H e was an outstanding young man."

A test of Elliott's faith in the young Clay came early in their friendship when the heavyweight turned away from Christianity to Islam, and changed his name.

"Many people rejected him when he turned to being a Muslim but I kept with him because he had a good heart," he said.

"Today the people of Louisville are celebrating his life.

"They've lowered the flags and they're having many memorial services.

"What's exciting is people are at his home place where he grew up.

"Many, many young people continue to be influenced by him in Louisville.

"All over this country, people are passing on the opportunity to be something great because of crime, but he laid down a beautiful example of how to get the best from life."

At Louisville Metro Hall, mayor Greg Fischer delivered a speech to a small crowd.

He said: " Muhammad Ali belongs to the world, but he only has one hometown. The Louisville Lip spoke to everyone, but we heard him in a way no one else could - as our brother, our uncle, and our inspiration."

And in a reminder of Ali's roots, he said: "W hile there can only be one Muhammad Ali, his journey from Grand Avenue to global icon serves as a reminder that there are young people with the potential for greatness in the houses and neighbourhoods all over our city, our nation and our world.

"There is no limit to what our kids can do if we help them realise their full human potential - and there is no excuse for us to do anything less than our best to help them find that greatness in themselves.

"That's how we can be champions. Muhammad Ali has shown us the way.

"Today, we, his fellow Louisvillians, join the billions whose lives he touched worldwide in mourning his passing, celebrating his legacy, and saying, 'Thank you Muhammad, for everything you've given to your hometown, your country, and the world'."

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