Harry Gregg was admired for both his ability and character, his funeral has been told.
Family, friends and fans gathered at St Patrick's Parish Church in Coleraine on Friday to bid farewell to the former Manchester United goalkeeper and hero of the 1958 Munich air disaster.
Sir Alex Ferguson joined mourners, alongside Manchester United greats Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
After the service the funeral cortege stopped at Coleraine showgrounds as hundreds of mourners lined the streets.
In a eulogy, BBC Sports presenter Stephen Watson recalled Mr Gregg's childhood, where he was the first of six children.
"Harry always admired the courage and resilience of his younger brother Billy who suffered with polio, and lost the use of his legs. Harry was so proud Billy was able to set up his own business," he said.
"Soon Harry and family moved to Windsor Avenue in Coleraine and from the moment he was old enough to walk, football was his passion. Every spare minute in his early years were spent kicking football in Victoria Park in the summer, and in the winter it was street football, with goalposts on the gable wall."
"As a child, Mr Gregg's footballing idol was Glasgow Celtic goalkeeper Johnny Thompson.
"Probably the reason Harry wanted a career between the sticks - even though not many know he started at left back.
"Harry also purposely flunked an exam so he didn't have to go to grammar school as they concentrated on rugby and cricket."
Mr Watson recalled Gregg was first signed for Manchester United.
"Soon, while at Doncaster Rovers, one of the world's biggest football clubs came calling. Manchester United. Harry told me how he was bundled into a car, blanket put over his head and taken to a house - when he was able to open his eyes in front of him was Sir Matt Busby.
"Before Matt even had the words out "do you want to join Manchester United?", Harry said yes! No signing on fee... still said yes!
"It was for a world record fee of £23,500 - as Harry said himself it doesn't sound like much now - and David Beckham spends more on haircuts - but he was the most expensive goalkeeper on the planet.
"Harry was proud that he was signed for United - yes for his ability - but also, as he later found out, for his character".
Mr Watson added that while the Munich air crash had a significant impact on Gregg, the death of his wife Mavis "was his darkest hour".
"At the age of just 25 his wife Mavis passed away with breast cancer. Munich was extremely harrowing but it Mavis's death that was the core of the pain that he suffered. It was his darkest hour."
He said Gregg loved spending time with his family, and will be missed by them: "His 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren I know will miss spending time with him."
Harry Gregg's family have said they are "amazed and overwhelmed" at the level of support they have received since he died on Sunday aged 87.
A death notice said he was the dearly loved husband of Carolyn; much-loved father of Linda, Julie, Jane, Suzanne, John-Henry and the late Karen; and a dear father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather.
In a statement, the family said they have been "overwhelmed" by the media coverage and support they have received in the wake of Gregg's passing.
"The shear volume of private messages which have been received and those posted via social media has been incredible. Reading them has given us all such a huge lift and comfort at this otherwise sad time," they said.
"Although his background was firmly rooted in football, we have been amazed by the outpouring of admiration being bestowed on him from the entire sporting community and indeed from all walks of life.
"In his own words, being transferred to Manchester United was like a dream coming true, but if truth be told he would have paid to have played for them, if he had been a rich man."
The family said Gregg was "incredibly proud" of his connection to Coleraine and even more so that of Northern Ireland.
"Although hurting deeply as a family it is our hope that this time and the funeral itself can be used as an opportunity for supporters everywhere to celebrate his great life, achievements and associations," they said.
Gregg survived the Munich crash and twice returned to the burning fuselage to drag United team-mates and strangers to safety.
He rescued United players Sir Bobby and Dennis Viollet from the BEA Flight 609, as well as a 20-month-old baby and her badly injured pregnant mother.
In nine years at United, Gregg played 247 times, including in a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday just 13 days after the Munich tragedy.
Gregg became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when Sir Matt Busby's United paid Doncaster £23,000 in 1957 and he was voted the best keeper at the World Cup a year later.
He won just 25 caps for his country during an international career that was hampered by injury.
Gregg had spells with Windsor Park Swifts, the reserve team of Linfield, and his local club Coleraine before moving to England to sign for Doncaster at the age of 18, and played for Rovers between 1952 and 1957.
When he retired from playing, a managerial career followed, with spells in charge of Shrewsbury, Swansea, Crewe and Carlisle.