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Fans Mourn Muhammad Ali at Hollywood Walk of Fame

Crowds gathered at the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali Saturday, one day after his death in Phoenix at the age of 74.

At an afternoon ceremony, flowers were placed next to his star, which is mounted on an exterior wall of the Dolby Theater. Ali's star is the only one out of the 2,582 stars placed on a vertical surface above ground.

Ali received the star in 2002 for live theater in recognition of his famous flair and poetry that boosted the popularity of boxing. 

"I don't want my name on the ground, (and) people walkin' on my name,'' Ali said at his Walk of Fame ceremony.

The special request to mount the star vertically was granted by the chairman of the walk of fame selection committee after Ali explained that he did not want people to step on his name -- the same as the Prophet Muhammad.

Ali first came to prominence in 1960 when he won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics, fighting under his birth name, Cassius Clay.

"As Olympians, our role is to inspire others to achieve their dreams, and no person has ever lived that role more than Muhammad Ali,'' said four-time gold medal-winning swimmer Janet Evans, the vice chair and director of athlete relations of LA 2024, the group seeking to bring the 2024 Olympics to Los Angeles.

Evans called passing the Olympic torch to Ali to light the cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics "the defining moment of my career and a memory I will treasure forever, as much as any of the medals I won.''

At an afternoon press conference Saturday, a family spokesman said Ali died of septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.

He was hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his children had flown in from around the country. A funeral will be held Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, at the KFC YUM! Center.

President Bill Clinton, Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal will eulogize "The Greatest of All Time" at his funeral service.

In addition to the funeral, there will be a procession throughout Louisville on Friday. The route includes locations that were historically important to Muhammad.

Ali turned professional in 1960. The 13th fight of his professional career that saw him win the world heavyweight championship three times was at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, a fourth-round technical knockout of George Logan April 23, 1962.

Ali fought three more times in the Los Angeles area, the final time on Sept. 10, 1973, when he won a 12-round split decision over Ken Norton at the Forum, avenging the second defeat of his professional career.

Ali lived in Los Angeles during parts of the 1970s and 1980s.

"We have lost a legend who proved the human spirit knows no bounds,'' Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. "Muhammad Ali you will never be forgotten.''

Ali first won the heavyweight championship on Feb. 25, 1964, when the heavily favored Sonny Liston did not answer the bell to start the seventh round at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

After the fight, he dropped what he called his "slave name'' becoming Muhammad Ali and disclosing he became a member of the Nation of Islam.

Ali angered many Americans in 1967 by refusing induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious beliefs. His boxing license was suspended, he was stripped of his title and convicted of draft evasion. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1971.

Ali regained the title in 1974 with an eighth-round knockout of the previously undefeated and favored George Foreman in a bout in Zaire known as the "Rumble in the Jungle.''

After losing the title to Leon Spinks on a split decision in 1978, he regained it later that year when he defeated Spinks on a unanimous decision.

"Muhammad Ali was truly the greatest -- an athlete who transcended sports to become a global icon,'' Evans said. "He inspired me and millions of others around the world, to be the best version of ourselves.''

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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