Muhammad Ali honored by Larry Holmes, George Foreman in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Muhammad Ali won another round of love and appreciation for his achievements as a fighter in and out of the ring. He even got the hardware to prove it.

The latest celebration of Ali, the three-time world heavyweight champion and self-proclaimed "Greatest Of All Time," featured former champions Larry Holmes and George Foreman, two notable opponents who gladly came to honor Ali as Sports Illustrated named its Sportsman Legacy Award after him Thursday night in his Kentucky hometown.

Friends, associates, dignitaries and former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal also were on hand for the ceremony on the 40th anniversary of Ali's third fight with Joe Frazier in the Philippines, an epic 14-round battle known as the "Thrilla in Manila."

Ali earned his second victory over Frazier in that fight when Frazier didn't come out for the final round. The fight is considered one of the greatest events in boxing and sports.

Ali, 73, is battling Parkinson's disease. Seated at a front table with his wife, Lonnie, to his right, he wore sunglasses as a slideshow of iconic photos played behind him. He did not speak, and photos initially weren't permitted during a ceremony in which he received a silver award plate from the magazine to a standing ovation.

Ali broke a big smile when O'Neal arrived and playfully took Lonnie's place at the table.

Said Lonnie before a packed room, "Thank you for loving Muhammad as much as you have and that you still do."

Ali's presence was one of a few yearly visits home; he spends most of his time in Arizona along with homes in several states.

His victory and other notable moments were highlighted on a backdrop of two dozen Sports Illustrated magazine covers at different points of his three-decade career as a fighter and half-century as a humanitarian. He has appeared on 39 covers overall.

This week's issue features a cover of Ali as a young fighter. Other notable moments were featured in a video montage in which he described himself as "The Greatest."

One SI cover included Ali and Foreman, who has come to grips with being a footnote in Ali's legacy after their 1974 fight in Zaire, known as the "Rumble In The Jungle." Ali knocked Foreman out in the eighth round.

A trim-looking Foreman praised his onetime rival and added, "This is the greatest man I've ever met in my life. I get excited and my heart beats (fast) every time I meet him."

Those tributes have been standard for Ali, thanks to a career that included winning an Olympic gold medal and speaking out on many social, athletic and humanitarian issues. Fittingly, he was honored in the center bearing his name and just four miles from his childhood home.

Wherever Ali is recognized, Holmes said he wants to be there.

"I hope we can do this next year and the year after that," said Holmes, a onetime sparring partner who beat Ali in 1980.