Muhammad Ali Center Paints Inspiring Portrait of Boxer's Life

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 26, 2007, 7:18 AM

April 26, 2007 — -- The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., is a museum not so much about history as it is about the spirit of a kid from a little house in Louisville who somehow saw himself astride the whole world and who is still daring to laugh.

Ali and his wife, Lonnie, took "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer on a tour.

The center encompasses everything that is Ali. It all started with the red bike he got for Christmas.

"Someone stole it, and he went in to tell the policeman there that someone had stolen his bike and he was gonna beat them up," Lonnie Ali told Sawyer. "So smart, Joe Martin said, 'Well, why don't you come learn to fight first?' And then he got him into the boxing at the Columbia Gym, and the rest is history."

But Ali was a child of segregation, and even after he had won an Olympic gold medal he came back home to hear these words at a restaurant counter: "Hey you. What you doing down here? You know I can't serve you."

"Those are harsh words to hear," Lonnie said.

At the Ali Center, Sawyer and the Alis sat together and watched a movie of his remarkable life. The film is based on a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling "If."

"If you can dream and not make dreams your master, walk with kings and not lose the common touch," the poem reads.

Lonnie said she didn't know whether Ali's battle with Parkinson's disease made remembering the past more difficult.

"You know, Diane, Muhammad not only looks at that film, just any film. And I don't know if he thinks about Parkinson's," she said. "He doesn't think about what, you know, what his limitations are now or what it may keep him from doing. He always thinks about what he's going to do tomorrow. And I think when he looks back at those films, I think it inspires him as well. And sometimes I think he's in awe of himself."

She said that he could still speak with her some in the morning, but that the medication he took for the Parkinson's made it difficult by noon.