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'The ultimate athlete and greatest ambassador of humanity'

Shabbir Ali - Former India footballer and captain:

I had just changed my profile picture to a photograph with him when he had come to India in 1991-92 once I found out about his illness last evening. When I met him, he was not very well even then. I just met him and asked him how his health was, then we chatted about the importance of footwork in our respective sports. He showed a few tricks with the ball as well.

He was the greatest and he was more than just a sportsperson. Ali's greatest contribution was to society. Most champions tend to withdraw into a shell once they acquire fame, but he was always willing to voice his opinion on things. Then his long fight with Parkinson's disease showed his courage and willpower.

If I have to tell today's younger generation anything about Ali, I would just ask them to see his fights and learn about how he overcame all kinds of struggles and shortcomings. It's a pity the new generation often doesn't know enough about icons, but they need to know why Ali was declared the 'sportsperson of the century' and 'The Greatest'.

Chuni Goswami - Former footballer and first-class cricketer, who met Ali in person at the 1960 Olympics in Rome:

I had the chance to meet Ali at the Rome Olympics in 1960 when I was captaining the Indian team and he was representing USA as Cassius Clay. He was fighting in the light-heavyweight and he won the gold.When I met him, I told him that we are all in awe of you and we have heard so much about you. He had a fair amount of vanity and pride, which was understandable, because he was an absolute champion.

Ali was called the greatest, and rightly so. Not only was he the greatest boxer, his performance had a hint of a showman. The way that he used to entertain during his bouts was quite special. The younger generations who may not have known him as intimately should take his spirit - he took the sport seriously, but at the same time he took life lightly.

Jaidip Mukerjea - Former India tennis player:

I actually had the opportunity to watch one of his fights against Henry Cooper when I was playing in London in 1963. He was still Cassius Clay then. I later went on meet him at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He was full of warmth, had an amazing sense of humour, and was very curious to know more about India. He was an exceptional athlete and a great human being.

Bishan Singh Bedi - Former India cricketer:

Ali was the ultimate athlete and the greatest ambassador of humanity. I never got to meet him and that will remain one of the biggest regrets of my life. He didn't just call himself 'The Greatest, he lived up to it in every way.

V Baskaran - Former India hockey captain:

I met him at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the year he was called upon to light the Olympic torch. He came to the Olympic village afterwards and had lunch with us. He was already suffering from Parkinson's then but was still full of life. He was very curious about field hockey and said he was only aware of girls playing hockey in USA. It was the only time I met him but that memory will always stay with me.

Ahead of our New Zealand tour in 1975, when we were staying in Sydney in transit we watched Ali's Manila bout against Joe Frazier live on colour TV. It was an overwhelming experience for the entire team. He was losing until the 12th bout, and then the way he fought his way back was remarkable. We were left with tears in our eyes. I don't think I ever will see a match like that again. The world of boxing can never recover from this loss.

Akhil Kumar - Indian boxer:

It's a huge loss to say the least. For boxers like me who grew up worshipping and building our style around him, it's a personal tragedy. I used to watch his back-pedaling over and over again just to imbibe his style and get it right. The way he used to declare before a bout that he would beat an opponent and then go on to do so was a testimony of his faith in his own craft. He brought style and swagger to boxing . He was both a performer and a showman and that's the kind of athlete that you will probably find no more than one in a millennium.

V Devarajan - Former India boxer:

Ali was the reason I took up boxing. My father was a huge fan of his and we had a life-size poster of him from his bout against Joe Frazier stuck against our wall at home. His biography by Don Atyeo and Felix Dennis was a Bible to me. When he came to Madras, I remember a packed crowd outside his hotel. I was still in school then and managed to squirm my way through and shake hands with him. It was like meeting God.

Akhtar Ali - Former India tennis player:

We lost one of the greatest fighters in the world. I met him once in London and even watched him train. I was young then and it inspired me. Though we didn't really interact, I was really influenced by the way he conducted himself. He made the game bigger. Boxing will never be the same again.