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    Will Smith to lead Ali pallbearers; king, president lose turn to speak in memorial service

    Jun 7, 2016
    Actor Billy Crystal will deliver a eulogy during Muhammad Ali's funeral. AP

    IT'S not every day that a king and a president get bumped from giving speeches. But it's happened for Muhammad Ali's memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday (Saturday, Manila time).

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Abdullah II of Jordan had been scheduled to speak at the service at the KFC Yum! Center.

    Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said on Monday that two other speakers are going to be added to the current program, meaning there won't be room for foreign dignitaries.

    Gunnell says both their offices were "gracious and understood."

    He says the names of the two additional speakers will be revealed later.

    California imam and scholar Zaid Shakir will preside over the service at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

    Speaking at the funeral will be representatives of multiple faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism and Catholicism. They will be followed by Ali's wife, Lonnie Ali; daughter Maryum Ali; actor Billy Crystal; and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel.

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    President Bill Clinton will deliver a eulogy.

    The Dalai Lama was invited, but sent regrets that he will be unable to attend.

    Ali died last Friday in Arizona following a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 74.

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    Actor Will Smith, who portrayed Muhammad Ali in the movie "Ali," and former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis are among eight pallbearers for Ali's memorial service this week in Louisville.

    Also serving is Jerry Ellis, brother of Jimmy Ellis, who was Ali's former sparring partner and former world heavyweight champion.

    Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said the others are relatives or friends of Ali: cousins John Grady and Jan Wadell, nephew Ibn Ali, former brother-in-law Komawi Ali and family friend John Ramsey.

    The service is set for 2 p.m. Friday.

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    Muhammad Ali and his family never seriously considered donating the boxing great's brain for research, according to the doctor who treated him.

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    "Not really," was Dr. Abe Lieberman's answer when he was asked Monday if submitting the brain for research was discussed.

    Lieberman said he didn't think boxing contributed to Ali's contraction of Parkinson's disease but he couldn't be "a hundred percent" certain.

    The doctor spoke at a news conference at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

    Lieberman was among those who diagnosed Ali in 1984. The doctor said he believes Ali had the disease earlier, when he fought Larry Holmes in 1980.

    Ali thought the Holmes fight did serious damage.

    In an interview, Ali said that if he had known "Holmes was going to whip me and damage my brain, I would not have fought him. But losing to Holmes and being sick are not important in God's world."

    Asked Monday if Ali blamed boxing for the disease, Lieberman said the fighter didn't think that way. He said Ali never regretted his boxing career and, as a devout Muslim, believed it was God's will that he experience the illness and help others to combat it.

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    The day before his star-studded funeral, members of Muhammad Ali's Islamic faith will get their chance to say a traditional goodbye to the Champ.

    Bob Gunnell, a spokesman for Ali's family, announced that a Jenazah, a traditional Muslim funeral service, will be held at Freedom Hall at noon Thursday. It will be open to all.

    They chose the venue both because it seats 18,000 and because it holds historical significance for the hometown hero. Ali fought, and won, his first professional fight there in 1960.

    Gunnell said Ali, who converted to the Islamic faith in the 1960s, started planning his own funeral nearly a decade ago. Gunnell said he wanted his services "to reflect his life and how he lived" with a heart open to people of all colors and creeds.

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    Actor Billy Crystal will deliver a eulogy during Muhammad Ali's funeral. AP
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