Page last updated at 18:18 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 19:18 UK

Muhammad Ali's warm Irish welcome

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Muhammad Ali gets a rapturous reception during a visit to the Irish town from where his great-grandfather emigrated to the States in the 1860s

Legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali has unveiled a plaque commemorating his Irish roots during a visit to the town from where his great-grandfather emigrated to the US.

Thousands of people turned out to give Ali a rapturous welcome to the western Irish town of Ennis, in County Clare.

The 67-year-old was made first honorary freeman of the town, the streets of which were decorated with pictures of the boxer in his prime.

The honour - conferred by the town council - also recognised Ali's sporting achievements and charity work.

Ali's ancestor, Abe Grady, lived on the Turnpike Road in the town, before moving in the 1860s to the US, where he married an African-American freed slave.

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How the boxing legend enjoyed a hurling lesson in Ireland in July 1972 - days before a fight in Croke Park against Al Blue Lewis

The BBC's Charu Shahane says it was more like a presidential visit than a welcome for a long lost son.

Ali - who suffers from Parkinson's disease - did not address the crowd, but spectators chanted his name while he shadow-boxed.

His visit brought back memories of previous trips to Ireland.

The three-times world heavyweight champion fought in July 1972 at Dublin's Croke Park, where he was victorious over Al Blue Lewis in a non-title bout.

Ali also made a moving visit to Ireland during the 2003 Special Olympics.



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SEE ALSO
Fermanagh man on friendship with Ali
31 Aug 09 |  Northern Ireland
Ennis ready to welcome legend Ali
09 Aug 09 |  Boxing
When Ali tried his hand at hurling
19 Feb 08 |  Gaelic Games


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