Boxing legend, Muhammad Ali has begun his final journey to mother earth on Friday in a procession that will last for two days.
Fans, friends and relatives trooped out in their thousands to pay their final respects to Ali during the processional that will wind through the boxing legend’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
The 19-mile procession, which can be seen live on WatchESPN, will tour landmarks in Ali’s life, including his childhood neighborhood and the gym where he began his boxing training.
The route also passes the Muhammad Ali Center and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, which was named in his honor in 1978.
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The procession began around 10:35 a.m. ET, about 65 minutes after the scheduled start of 9:30 a.m.
There were a few chants of “Ali!” as the cars left, but most were quiet and reverent as the champ went by.
Seventeen cars make up the procession, including the hearse carrying Ali.
After the procession, which is expected to take about 90 minutes, Ali’s body will be buried in a private ceremony at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
In keeping with Islamic tradition, “Ali” will be the single word inscribed on the headstone for the boxing superstar, Gunnell said.
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was added to serve as a pallbearer for Muhammad Ali.
He had to take a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to be in Louisville on Friday, according to Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell.
Gunnell said Tyson wasn’t sure whether he would attend the service because of a prior commitment.
He said Tyson was highly emotional when he learned of Ali’s death and wasn’t sure whether he could handle the emotions of Ali’s memorial.
Other pallbearers include former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, actor Will Smith and members of Ali’s family.
Ali’s cherry-red casket, draped in an Islamic shroud, was loaded into a hearse and the pallbearers left the funeral home in a double file.
Ali’s nine children, his wife, two of his ex-wives and other family members joined the motorcade.
A public memorial service for Ali will be held at the KFC Yum! Center at 2 p.m. ET Friday.
Speakers expected for the memorial service include former President Bill Clinton, actor Billy Crystal, journalist Bryant Gumbel, Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali and representatives from multiple faiths.
President Barack Obama was unable to make the trip because his daughter Malia is graduating from high school.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, planned to read a letter Obama wrote to Ali’s family at the service.
About 300 celebrities and dignitaries will be among the 15,500 in the crowd, Gunnell said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the United States prior to the memorial service.
He and Jordan’s King Abdullah were scheduled to speak at the funeral but lost their spots when other speakers were added later.
On Thursday, the Jenazah, a traditional Muslim funeral prayer service, was held at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
About 6,000 people were scanned in for the service of the 15,000 tickets that were distributed, according to Kentucky State Fair Board spokeswoman Amanda L. Storment.
After the public prayer service, Ali’s family observed a private funeral.
Ali, a three-time heavyweight champion, died June 3 in the Phoenix area at age 74.
He designed the two-day memorial in exacting detail years before his death.
[Contributions from AP]