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BREAKING: Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest of All Time', Dead at 74

BREAKING: Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest of All Time', Dead at 74

NBC News

Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself "The Greatest" and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead.

Ali died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital, where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications, a family spokesperson confirmed to NBC News. He was 74.

Ali had suffered for three decades from Parkinson's Disease, a progressive neurological condition that slowly robbed him of both his legendary verbal grace and his physical dexterity. A funeral service is planned in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Even as his health declined, Ali did not shy from politics or controversy, releasing a statement in December criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. "We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda," he said.

The remark bookended the life of a man who burst into the national consciousness in the early 1960s, when as a young heavyweight champion he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, and became an emblem of strength, eloquence, conscience and courage. Ali was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion. His fights against other men became spectacles, but he embodied much greater battles.

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