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Will Smith humbled to attend Muhammad Ali's funeral

Published 11/06/2016

The actor was blown away by the "outpouring of love" from Ali's fans, friends and family members who turned out for his final farewell.

Will Smith is honoured to have played a part in Muhammad Ali's grand funeral on Friday (10Jun16), insisting it was a "beautiful" celebration of the great sportsman's life.

The actor, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the legendary boxer in 2001 biopic Ali, served as one of the pallbearers at Friday's memorial in Louisville, Kentucky, as the late icon's body made one last trip through his native city as part of the funeral procession.

Will admits he was blown away by the thousands who lined the streets of Louisville to pay their last respects ahead of a public interfaith memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday afternoon (10Jun16).

"It's absolutely beautiful. We did a two-hour procession through the state... the outpouring of love," the star tells Entertainment Tonight of the funeral parade. "I learned a really valuable lesson about how the moment of the end of a life illuminates how it was lived. And every day you have to focus and concentrate on making sure you're living your life in a way that it illuminates the things you want illuminated, and the things that were illuminated today were his love, and his heart, and his unconditional appreciation for all people of every race and colour."

Will adds of the huge crowds, "Every age was out there. It was beautiful... 'Celebration' is the right word."

Prior to the procession, the actor reveals he had the chance to talk to boxers and fellow pallbearers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and swap stories about the late fighter many believe to be the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.).

"We all sat around, you know - Tyson, Lewis, and a lot of Ali's family and me - for about an hour," he shares. "We all just told the stories and our memories. You know, for me, it's just humbling to be able to be here with the family in this time of need. He lived the perfect example of how a human being is supposed to live their life. It was beautiful."

The 47-year-old goes to explain it was the icon's close bond with his fans which he really admired about Ali, who he spent a lot of time with before, during and after the filming of his biopic.

"As an actor, whenever you play a role, you always take away something that lasts with you for the rest of your life, and I remember (Ali) would just walk away, and you'd look, and he would just be in the middle of a crowd of people," Will remembered. "No security. He just got on a bus.

"I said, 'Champ, you just walked into a crowd of people. You got on a bus and just rode away and you weren't going anywhere. What is that?' And he said, 'Aww man. They ain't ever seen nothing like you before. You got to let them touch you and know you real (sic). You know?' And I just thought that was such a beautiful idea - that we have to let people actually physically touch you for the aspirational qualities."

Smith's comments emerge hours after Ali's daughter Laila heaped praise on the actor for doing her father justice onscreen.

"He appreciated the great job that Will Smith did playing him," she told the news show as she explained why she was grateful to have the star as a pallbearer.

"My father had a big impact on his life," Laila Ali continued. "He did a tremendous job playing that role, and he will forever be associated with my father, because as an actor, that's kind of a spiritual thing, playing Muhammad Ali - and being able to do it so well. Channel that energy that he needed to bring to that role."

The boxing champion, who battled Parkinson's disease for 32 years, died from septic shock in Phoenix, Arizona on 3 June (16).

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