DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Even in his final months, Muhammad Ali was speaking out on behalf of Islam, the religion he so famously embraced in the 1960s by changing his name and refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.

In December, the boxing legend issued a statement criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Ali called on fellow Muslims to “stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

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He died Friday at 74.

Ali was a force inside and outside the boxing ring, leaving a mark on society that won’t soon be forgotten.

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One Michigan man, Ron Gentry of Lake Orion, recalled a unique experience he had with Ali back in the 1970s — the honor of going toe-to-toe with “The Champ” in the ring.

As a young athlete, Ali endured public scorn when he joined the Nation of Islam. Decades later, long after he had achieved worldwide renown, he kept advocating for Muslims in the U.S. who felt their religion made them political targets.

 

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