muhammad ali towering over sonny liston (classic pic)

*He was The Greatest of All Time and he always will be. But on Friday, Muhammad Ali left this world at age 74, according to a statement from the family. As we reported earlier, he was hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems, and his children gathered around him.

“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die,” Don King, who promoted some of Ali’s biggest fights, told The Associated Press early Saturday. “Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.”

With a wit as sharp as the punches he used to “whup” opponents, Ali dominated sports for two decades before time and Parkinson’s Syndrome, triggered by thousands of blows to the head, ravaged his magnificent body, muted his majestic voice and ended his storied career in 1981.

He won and defended the heavyweight championship in epic fights in exotic locations, spoke loudly on behalf of blacks, and famously refused to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War because of his Muslim beliefs.

Despite his debilitating illness, he traveled the world to rapturous receptions even after his once-bellowing voice was quieted and he was left to communicate with a wink or a weak smile.

Revered by millions worldwide and reviled by millions more, Ali cut quite a figure, 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds in his prime. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” his cornermen exhorted, and he did just that in a way no heavyweight had ever fought before.

Ali fought in three different decades, finished with a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts and was the first man to win heavyweight titles three times.

Read.learn MORE about the death of and American idol, The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali, at the Associated Press.