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The BBC's Rupert Carey
" The biggest award of the night went to the hot favourite"
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Lennox Lewis
"It's a great honour"
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Maurice Green
Maurice Green receives his award
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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 08:16 GMT
Ali crowned Sportsman of Century

Ali received a standing ovation as the award was announced

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been crowned Sports Personality of the Century at the BBC's final sporting awards ceremony of the millennium.

Ali, the three-times world heavyweight champion, received a standing ovation as he collected the trophy at the Sports Personality awards.

And boxing celebrated a double triumph as current world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Ali collected more votes from BBC viewers than the other contenders - soccer stars George Best and Pele, cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, golfer Jack Nicklaus and athlete Jesse Owens - put together.

The 57-year-old, who received the award from former world boxing champion Evander Holyfield, said: "I would like to thank the British people for giving me such a big welcome and all the people concerned with the award."

And he joked: "I had a good time boxing. I enjoyed it - and I may come back."

Ali, who has Parkinson's Disease, also issued a statement which said: "Ever since I first came here in 1963 to fight Henry Cooper, I have loved the people of England.

Lennox Lewis: Award caps a year of stunning success
"They have always been extremely warm and welcoming to me, which is why I am especially honoured to accept the BBC's Sports Personality of the Century.

"I give thanks to God and to all the people in the UK who have supported me over the years."

Guests at the ceremony in west London looked back over a century of sporting achievement as well as the excitement and drama of the past 12 months.

Dazzling skills

Ali was world heavyweight champion three times during his remarkable sporting career.

The man born Cassius Clay, who is now battling against Parkinson's Disease, will always be remembered for the dazzling boxing skills and extraordinary self-belief he exhibited both in and out of the ring.

For all the young athletes may my trials and tribulations be a level of success for them
Lennox Lewis
Receving his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Lennox Lewis said: "It is a great honour to be able to achieve my goal.

"It has been ten years of trials and tribulations trying to achieve my goal. For all the young athletes may my trials and tribulations be a level of success for them."

Manchester United's David Beckham, who is also one of the favourites to be named European footballer of the year, was second in the Sports Personality of the Year award, with 110m world championship hurdler Colin Jackson in third.

German tennis player Boris Becker, giant New Zealand rugby union wing Jonah Lomu and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson - together with his Treble-winning squad - were among a galaxy of stars who attended the event.

United were named team of the year after their Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League triumphs.

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  Sport
Ali: Star of the century
12 Dec 99 |  Sport
Lewis heads sporting honours
12 Dec 99 |  Sport
Picture gallery: Sporting stars gather
01 Sep 99 |  Sport
Boxing champion Ali voted 'The Greatest'
17 Feb 99 |  Sport
Ali: A hero through the ages
14 Dec 98 |  Sport
Owen nets BBC sports award
14 Dec 97 |  Sport
Double ace for tennis
14 Dec 98 |  Sport
Ali - The Greatest

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