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Thousands pay tribute to Muhammad Ali at memorial service in Louisville

Tributes have been paid to boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a memorial service in his home city of Louisville, Kentucky.

The interfaith event, which saw speakers praise his talent, achievements and his fight for civil rights, took place hours after thousands of people said farewell to his coffin passing through city streets.

Ali’s memorial service, attended by dignitaries and by several thousand people who acquired free tickets, was held at the KFC Yum! Centre.

Protestant minister Kevin Cosby told attendees that the heavyweight boxing star had “infused in Africans a sense of somebodiness”.

“Before James Brown said ‘I’m black and I’m proud’, Muhammad Ali said ‘I’m black and I’m pretty’,” he said.

Meanwhile Valerie Jarrett, an aide to President Barack Obama who knew the boxer personally, read a letter from the president describing Ali as “bigger, brighter and more influential than just about anyone in his era”.

The letter continued: “You couldn’t have made him up, and yes, he was pretty too. Muhammad Ali was America. Muhammad Ali will always be America. What a man.”

Ali, who died aged 74 last Friday, was buried in a private ceremony attended by friends and family.

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