Muhammad Ali fans gather to pay final respects

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, shouting and gesturing shortly after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the world heavyweight boxing championship three times. He also won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome as a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team. In 1964 he dropped the name Cassius Clay and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – The Latest on the memorial service for Muhammad Ali (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

An announcer has asked people to find their seats so the public interfaith memorial service for Muhammad Ali can begin. Many seats are still empty.

Director Spike Lee, boxing promoter Don King and soccer player David Beckham are among those in attendance.

The service at the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville follows a private graveside service at Cave Hill Cemetery. A Muslim prayer service was held a day Thursday at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

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2:30 p.m.

Celebrities have begun showing up at the memorial service for Muhammad Ali.

Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, rapper/actor Common, and former NFL Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis pulled up to a VIP side entrance at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday afternoon. They were greeted by cheers from onlookers standing about three rows deep.

Former boxers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith served as pallbearers.

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2 p.m.

The private graveside service for Muhammad Ali at Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery has been completed.

Next up is the interfaith memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center, where former President Bill Clinton, actor Billy Crystal and TV journalist Bryant Gumbel are scheduled to speak.

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1 p.m.

The funeral procession carrying Muhammad Ali’s casket has arrived at Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.

Spectators stepped into the street to touch the flower-strewn hearse as it entered the cemetery. Someone threw flowers to Hana Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, as she rode in a limousine in the procession.

Gerald Wayne Jacobs wept openly as the motorcade went by. He cried, “The champ is gone, the champ is gone!”

“He was a good man I tell you, he didn’t forget where he came from. I wasn’t going to miss this for the world.”

Kevin York also held back tears as the hearse drove by over a bed of rose petals at the gates to the cemetery. York held an Ali poster that the champ signed in the early ’90s when York spotted him walking alone on a downtown Louisville street.

“He was a friend to anybody. I’m so sorry he’s gone I wish he could’ve kept going,” York said as he fought back tears.

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12:45 p.m.

The starting time for the memorial service for Muhammad Ali has been pushed back.

The service had been scheduled to start at 2 p.m. But with the funeral procession still underway at 12:30 p.m., organizers at the KFC Yum! Center said the interfaith memorial service wouldn’t start for at least two more hours.

The funeral procession didn’t get begin until nearly 90 minutes after its scheduled start time. The hearse is headed to Cave Hill Cemetery, where Ali will be buried.

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12:15 p.m.

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield says the massive turnout to say goodbye to Muhammad Ali is proof of Ali’s role as a unifier.

Holyfield said Friday that Ali wanted the world to come together. He says Ali is “probably up above, looking down and seeing all the different races come together.” Holyfield says Ali used his fame as a boxer to promote his humanitarian ideals.

Holyfield is among hundreds of celebrities and dignitaries paying homage to Ali as the three-time heavyweight champion is laid to rest in his hometown of Louisville.

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Noon

Crowds are waiting for the arrival of Muhammad Ali’s funeral procession at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

With the cemetery closed to the public for the day, spectators sat in lawn chairs lining the street in front of Cave Hill. Some people sprinkled rose petals in front of a cemetery entrance. A little girl, 2-year-old Lena Worthington, was wearing big purple boxing gloves.

Ali died last Friday at age 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

He chose the cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, as his final resting place a decade ago. Its 130,000 graves represent a who’s who of Kentucky, including Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

By 7 a.m., there were men in dark suits inside the gates, and the media was set up across the street.

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11:50 a.m.

Hundreds lined the rail at Louisville’s Belvedere plaza, overlooking Interstate 64, just next to the Muhammad Ali Center.

“Here comes the Champ!” one man shouted as the funeral procession neared and the crowd fell silent.

The motorcade rolled to a stop.

“Ali! Ali! Ali!” the crowd screamed. People jumped and waved. Down below, the windows of limos rolled down and arms stretched out to wave back.

Edward Fletcher swears he saw Will Smith wave at him.

The procession paused on the interstate for one minute in the shadow of the museum that will stand as a lasting tribute to The Louisville Lip’s legacy.

“My heart is racing,” said Mona Fletcher, Edward’s wife. “I feel like I should cry, they’d be tears of joy. What an honor, what a blessing I was able to witness this great moment.”

The Fletchers brought their 11-year-old granddaughter, Iyanna Cleveland, from their home in Atlanta.

Edward, a 62-year-old retired firefighter, said he admired Ali since he was a young boy. Ali taught him to be strong and have conviction, to believe in his own greatness and to rely on God.

Alan Hensley, from Indiana, was standing against the rail when he saw Iyanna behind him struggling to see. He offered her his spot against the rail.

Mona Fletcher remarked that it was symbolic of what Ali stood for: grace and kindness, even if it cost him the best view.

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11:25 a.m.

Herman Crossen could easily win an award as the best-dressed person watching the Muhammad Ali funeral procession.

The pastor of a neighborhood church turned heads as he crossed Muhammad Ali Boulevard in a tailored cream suit with a white-collared shirt and multicolor tie. Like others trying to keep cool as temperatures approached 90 degrees, he managed to do that and look hip as well as he stood against a brick wall.

“I’m kind of used to hearing that,” Crossen joked about the compliments and looks.

Crossen said his uncle, also a minister, helped Ali distribute food to needy families and even helped fix up the champion’s childhood home. He said his mother helped baby-sit for Ali. No way would he miss the chance to say goodbye to someone from around the way who just happened to be The Greatest.

“I’m excited about the unity here, which is what Ali spoke about,” Crossen said. “I wanted to see this one moment on this one page of history.”

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11:15 a.m.

Inez Hughes tried not to cry as she gazed at the interstate where the hearse carrying Muhammad Ali’s body will soon pass by.

“This is the last time to see him ride by,” the Louisville native said. “This is history.”

She stood with dozens of others leaning against the rail overlooking the interstate at Louisville’s Belvedere, a plaza along the Ohio River where the memorial will be live-streamed for those who weren’t able to get tickets.

Semitrailers passing on the interstate below honked and waved in solidarity.

“He was Louisville, he represented us better than anybody else,” said Hughes’ co-worker, Ashia Powell. “He stood up for himself and for us, even when it wasn’t popular.”

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11:05 a.m.

Hundreds lined the streets of a busy Louisville road as a hearse carrying the casket of Muhammad Ali left the funeral home for a miles-long procession around the city.

There were a few chants of “Ali!” as the cars left, but most were quiet and reverent as the champ went by. Kenneth McGlothlan chanted “Ali!” as the procession started. He said he felt joyous today and that this week in Louisville has been a celebration of “a great life.”

Children came with their parents and stood in the increasing heat waiting for the procession to begin nearly 90 minutes after its scheduled start time.

Just before the procession began, the streets were blocked off and people were allowed to stand on the road just feet away from Ali’s casket. One woman threw rose petals on the street as the procession went by.

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11 a.m.

Three women who graduated with Muhammad Ali in the class of 1960 at Central High School weren’t going to miss a chance to say a last goodbye.

Veronica Pearson, Yvonne Ford Wilson and Shirley Daugherty lived in the same neighborhood as Ali.

“We thought we were hip and we called him a square,” Wilson said. “But he was generous, he was nice. He is what the world sees today, the same man he was then.”

Wilson pulled out a plastic butterfly and a stuffed animal bee out of her purse as she got out of a car across from the arena where Ali’s memorial service will be held.

The three women were sad that Ali died but happy the world could celebrate his life.

“It’s wonderful,” Hillman said. “Who else would pass away and bring all this unity and peace. He has included everybody, young, old, black, white and all religions.”

Wilson said one of her favorite remembrances of Ali as a teenager was when he would stand on corners and make a sound like a siren when cars went by, startling drivers who thought they were being pulled over by police.

“He was so funny,” she said. “We’ve been telling stories ever since he passed. Sometimes you want to grieve and talk about it.”

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10:45 a.m.

The area near Muhammad Ali’s boyhood home is crowded as people – young and old; black, white and Asian – await the processional carrying Ali’s casket.

Debra Brown, who grew up in another part of western Louisville, says she has always admired how Ali has represented the city and wanted to be a part of the events to say goodbye. She said she brought her granddaughter to teach her about his boxing triumphs and his humanitarian causes outside the ring.

“She knows the name now. When she gets older, it will stick in her head. … When she sees his face, she’s going to remember Muhammad Ali.”

Brown says she hopes her granddaughter also will heed some of Ali’s teachings.

“You can be all that you can be; talk positive about herself.”

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10:40 a.m.

Heads of nations have contributed to the makeshift memorial growing outside the Muhammad Ali Center.

A wreath of red roses was signed from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. A garland of white flowers came from the ambassador of Bangladesh.

Others left prized possessions: a framed copy of a Sports Illustrated with Ali on the cover, a hand-painted canvas of Ali’s likeness, framed photos of children with the Champ.

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10:35 a.m.

The funeral procession carrying Muhammad Ali’s casket through the streets of Louisville has begun.

The 17-car motorcade is expected to take Ali’s body on a 19-mile route past his boyhood home and the museum that bears his name.

The burial at Cave Hill Cemetary is to be followed by a grand interfaith memorial service in the afternoon.

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10:25 a.m.

Brae’lyn Gamble needed a little prodding to recall her family’s connection to Muhammad Ali.

Standing with her friend Jennai Carroll, 8, holding homemade posters proclaiming Ali as The Greatest, Gamble was a little shy before relatives reminded her that her great-great aunt lived next door to Ali’s childhood home for 30 years before the owner sold it. It’s now a museum and gift shop.

Gamble, who traveled from Murray, Kentucky, opened up.

“I’m going to tell people my great-great-aunt lived right next to that pink house,” she said, “and Ali was born in Louisville, just like me.”

Carroll simply recalled the pink color of Ali’s former home and, “I was glad to go to his house.”

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10:15 a.m.

Attendance for Muhammad Ali’s Muslim prayer service was smaller than anticipated.

Kentucky State Fair Board spokeswoman Amanda L. Storment says 6,000 people were scanned in to Freedom Hall and the North Wing, where the service was held. She says 15,000 tickets were given out for the service Thursday.

Storment says “a significant crowd” gathered outside the facility before and during the service but didn’t enter the building.

An interfaith memorial service is being held for Ali on Friday in Louisville, following a procession through the city.

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10:05 a.m.

Yejide Travis stood on her tiptoes to peek over a walk outside the Muhammad Ali Center. She was with several others looking for a view of the interstate where the motorcade carrying his body will soon pass by.

The 55-year-old from Louisville grew up not far from Ali’s childhood home. One of her first memories was running into him on the street. He was already a boxing champion.

“I was 5 and this big strong man who was so pretty picked me up. He was kind to me. He looked me in the eye, made me feel special. And I haven’t forgotten it in 50 years.”

She remembers seeing him walk around town with dozens of kids trailing at his heels. He never seemed to mind, she said.

“He was the people’s champion. He loved us well. He asked you how you were doing and he really wanted the answer. He was the greatest of all time. There will never be another.”

___

10 a.m.

Hundreds of people are crowding the streets in front of the Louisville funeral home holding Muhammad Ali’s body, many squeezing into a neighboring yard to catch a glimpse of the casket.

The scene is a joyous atmosphere, as many hope to say a final goodbye to the boxing champ. Police are blocking off the property to keep people back. Some made signs, and others wore Ali T-shirts.

Thirty-six-year-old Mike Stallings brought his 2 young sons. The family made signs to wave at the start of the processional.

He says: “It’s a real reminder of our mortality, to see someone like that so strong and now he’s gone.

“As big as he was, he never looked down on people. He always mingled among the crowds.”

___

5 p.m.

Officials say Turkey’s president, who flew to the United States to attend the funeral for Muhammad Ali, is cutting short his visit and returning home.

His office on Friday did not give an explanation as to why Recep Tayyip Erdogan was returning early.

Private Dogan news agency reported that the Turkish leader was upset that funeral organizers rejected his request to lay a piece from the cloth covering the Kaaba, in Mecca, on Ali’s coffin. They reportedly also denied a request for Turkey’s top cleric to read from the Quran.

Erdogan attended the Muslim prayer service for Ali on Thursday but would not take part in Friday’s interfaith memorial service.

Erdogan and Jordan’s King Abdullah were scheduled to speak at the funeral but lost their spots when other speakers were added later.

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9:30 a.m.

Takeisha Benedict and her co-workers were color-coordinated as they waited to pay their respects to Muhammad Ali.

The five women wore orange T-shirts with “I Am Ali” printed on them while standing outside the housing office across the street from the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage on Muhammad Ali Boulevard. The long procession was about 45 minutes away from passing by, and they didn’t mind waiting in the sun with a late-arriving gathering of people to see The Greatest.

Benedict would’ve been out here no matter the weather.

She says: “To me, he was a legend to this city and an example to people. I’m just glad to be part of this history of saying goodbye. Opening it up and allowing us to be part of it, we’re so appreciative.”

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9:25 a.m.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in Louisville for the memorial service for Muhammad Ali.

The NBA’s all-time scoring leader posted a photo of himself on Twitter standing in front of a makeshift memorial outside the Muhammad Ali Center, with the caption, “And so my day begins …’.

The center is several blocks from the KFC Yum! Center, where more than 15,000 people, including hundreds of celebrities and dignitaries, are expected to show up Friday afternoon for an interfaith memorial service.

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9 a.m.

Jenell Weber says she came to Louisville from Santa Clarita, California, to pay tribute to Muhammad Ali, whom she called her “biggest hero.”

She flew in Thursday at 6 a.m. so she could attend the prayer service and went to Ali’s boyhood home Friday for the processional because she wanted to see where it all started.

She says: “He’s so much more than boxing. He is an amazing humanitarian. He stood up for what he believed in when it wasn’t a popular thing to do, and he has a soul in his character like gold.”

She says she also admired his way of bringing people together, no matter their race or religion.

She says, “We need more people like him to help get the world to come together.”

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8:45 p.m.

Filipino fans remembering Muhammad Ali gathered near the site of his epic “Thrilla in Manila” fight with Joe Frazier for an art and photo tribute.

The display near Araneta Coliseum at Ali Mall in the Philippines was launched hours before Ali’s burial in the United States.

Outside the coliseum, a cutout picture of Ali stands in a boxing ring. Fans crowded around a screen playing videos of the 1975 match that put the Philippines on the map. At the mall, memorabilia including boxing gloves with Ali’s autograph, an original souvenir program and a gold commemorative coin also are on display.

The Oct. 1, 1975, heavyweight championship, one of the greatest boxing matches in history, was won by Ali on a technical knockout at the jam-packed coliseum in Manila’s suburban Quezon city and was watched by a worldwide audience.

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8:35 p.m.

About two dozen people gathered along the road in front of the funeral home where Muhammad Ali’s body is being kept. They watched as limousines for the 17-car procession filed into the AD Porter & Sons funeral home parking lot in southeastern Louisville.

Lisa Taylor, who lives down the street, showed up before work to catch a glimpse of the beginning of the procession.

She said: “I just wanted to come out and feel the spirit today. He is Louisville’s son, and I wanted to be close to history. People all over the world will be watching. He’s a world humanitarian.”

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8:23 a.m.

Organizers of Muhammad Ali’s memorial sought to quash rumors that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is attending Friday’s service.

Bob Gunnell, a spokesman for the Ali family, said Trump will not be among the guests. Gunnell said Trump “was invited like anyone else was” to the public service. Trump spoke to Ali’s wife, Lonnie, and said he was unable to attend.

In December, Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States. Ali, probably the most famous Muslim in the U.S., issued one of his last statements to criticize the proposal, calling on people “to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

Gunnell said Friday morning that 300 celebrities and dignitaries will be among the 15,500 in the crowd.

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8:09 a.m.

People gathered early outside Muhammad Ali’s boyhood home, which was decorated with balloons, flags, flowers and posters for Friday’s memorial.

A procession with Ali’s casket was to pass by the home Friday morning.

Fans took photos of themselves standing in front of the small pink home with white trim, and standing near a large cloth poster on the lawn decorated with images of Ali, and declaring him “The Greatest.”

Some people staked out their place near the home with lawn chairs. Others milled about on foot.

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8:08 a.m.

“Ali.”

That will be the single word inscribed on the headstone for the boxing superstar.

Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said the simple stone is in keeping with Islamic tradition.

Ali chose Cave Hill Cemetery as his final resting place a decade ago. Cave Hill is on the National Register of Historic Places, and also the final resting place of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

Ali wanted to be buried in his hometown, where he learned to box and fought his first fight. He also built a museum and the city named a street in his honor.

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7:55 a.m.

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is a late addition as a pallbearer at Muhammad Ali’s burial.

Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell says Tyson caught a late flight to be part of the ceremonies Friday honoring Ali in Louisville, Kentucky. Other pallbearers include actor Will Smith and another former heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis.

Gunnell says Tyson wasn’t sure if he would attend the service because of a prior commitment. He says Tyson was highly emotional when he learned of Ali’s death and wasn’t sure if he could handle the emotions of Ali’s memorial.

The ceremonies will start with a procession that begins at 9:30 a.m., taking Ali’s casket past his boyhood home and the museum that honors him.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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