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Muhammad Ali shows his fighting spirit during trip to home of Irish ancestors

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With a steely look in his eyes, Muhammad Ali raised his fists while a thunderous cheer went up from the crowd
 Photo: © PA

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Over 10,000 had gathered to welcome the iconic sportsman to Ennis, County Clare where he arrived to unveil a plaque in honour of his little-known Irish ancestors
 Photo: © PA

02 SEPTEMBER 2009

For a moment he was transformed once again into the legendary boxer who made his mark on history. With a steely look in his eyes, Muhammad Ali raised his fists into a fighting stance as a thunderous cheer went up from the crowd.

The emotional scene played out as the three times World Heavyweight Champion was greeted by a crowd of 10,000 who had turned out to watch him unveil a plaque in honour of his little-known Irish ancestors in Ennis, County Clare.

And though he appeared frail at his last public outing on his tour of the UK, during a trip to Manchester, this was vintage Ali - radiating charisma despite the fact he's been battling Parkinson's Disease for 25 years.

As on his Manchester trip, the 67-year-old shunned his wheelchair, alighting from a black people carrier to attend the ceremony, during which he was also made the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis.

The event took place on Turnpike road, the former home of his great-grandfather Abe Grady, who emigrated to the US in the 1860s.

Fans of all ages, many bearing banners and Irish flags, had started convening in the square hours earlier to get a glimpse of their idol.

For his part, Muhammad, who was accompanied by his wife Lonnie, seemed moved by the reception, smiling several times during the civic event.

Among the invited guests were three representatives of three families believed to be directly descended from Ali's great-grandfather.

"It was unreal, it was a privilege," said Lonnie of the day. "When he saw his relations he was delighted. I think he was emotional - by God, I was certainly emotional."

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