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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Actor Heston gets 'Heston' award
Charlton Heston
Heston won an Oscar for his role as Ben Hur
Actor Charlton Heston has been given the first Charlton Heston award, a new prize handed out by the American Film Institute (AFI) saluting acting talent.

The Hollywood actor, 79, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, received the award at his home on Tuesday.

Heston won for appearing in such films as Planet of the Apes and Ben Hur.

"For decades, he has been a major presence in movies and television around the world," said AFI board chairman Howard Stringer.

"His strong spirit of commitment to AFI lives on through this honour," Mr Stringer said.

Heston had served as the AFI's board chairman from 1971-82 and its president from 1983-2002.

Oscars winner

The Charlton Heston award will be given periodically when the AFI finds a worthy winner.

Heston won best actor in the 1959 Oscars for his role as Ben Hur in the Roman-era adventure, and also won an honorary Oscar in 1978 for his humanitarian work.

Heston was an ardent civil rights campaigner in the 1960s, even marching with activist Martin Luther King. But in recent years he courted controversy as president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which promotes gun ownership.

He stepped down as NRA president earlier this year, citing ill health.

Heston was recently given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, the country's highest civilian award.

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