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Group from Northeast Ohio heading to Kentucky for Muhammad Ali’s funeral

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CLEVELAND - Boxing legend Muhammad Ali will be laid to rest on Friday. A group of people from Northeast Ohio are headed to Kentucky to attend.

Ali died Friday at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Muhammad Ali came to Cleveland many times, especially during the 1960s and 70s. He left a lasting impression here as he did all over the globe.

"He was just not a man who talked the talk, he walked the walk," said local community activist Khalid Samad.

Samad was among several people who gathered in an east side neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, preparing for a heart-felt trip to Louisville, Kentucky. The diverse group plans to attend funeral services for a man who packed a powerful punch inside and outside of the boxing ring, the Greatest, muhaMuhammad Ali.

"Religion, ethnicity, culture, politics, race, it's all combined in the life, legacy and the challenge of Muhammad Ali and what he meant to us as Americans, to African-Americans, to Muslims and to the whole world community," said Samad.

He says more than a half dozen people from Cleveland will meet up with others in Columbus and Cincinnati on their way to Louisville.

"We were there when he opened up the Muhammad Ali Center, we came back for the birthday celebration and he had such a major impact on our lives here in Cleveland," said Samad.

"I found that this is a sports figure that, you know, I've never seen in my age who is both an athletic figure, a political figure and a social figure, and a religious figure and I don't think anybody comes like that these days whatsoever," said Anand Bhat, a fan of the boxing legend.

"He was born and raised here, but I come from India, and I'm still a Muhammad Ali fan, big, big fan, not just as a sportsperson, but as a leader," said his wife, Mythili Ramakrishna.

The group cherished old photos that grace the Call and Post newspaper, which is owned by Cleveland-native and boxing promoter Don King.

"The last time I met him was in Cleveland, Ohio, he was promoting his cologne," said community activist Imam Paul Hasan.

Imam Hasan says the group plans to attend a private Islamic Funeral Prayer Program Thursday before attending the public memorial Friday, where thousands are expected.

"Resilience and commitment and conviction, he loved Islam and he loved the human family," he said.

A funeral procession will be held through the streets of Louisville Friday. It will pass Muhammad Ali’s boyhood home before a private burial is held.

The public celebration of Ali’s life will be held at the KFC Yum! Center, where eulogies will be delivered by comedian Billy Crystal, journalist Bryant Gumbel and former President Bill Clinton.