Bill Clinton Recalls Muhammad Ali's 'Final Steps' to Light the Olympic Cauldron in 1996

PHOTO: Former President Bill Clinton delivers a eulogy during Muhammad Alis memorial service, June 10, 2016, in Louisville, Ky.PlayDavid Goldman/AP Photo
WATCH Bill Clinton Recalls Ali Lighting Olympic Cauldron in 1996

Former President Bill Clinton gave the last eulogy at Muhammad Ali's interfaith memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, today, reflecting on the athlete's struggle to light the Olympic cauldron in 1996 in Atlanta, kicking off the summer games.

Clinton, who was president at the time, said he would "never forget" witnessing the boxer he used to watch as a boy take the final steps toward the cauldron.

"I was weeping like a baby seeing his hands shake," Clinton said. "No matter what it took, the flame would be lit. The fight would be won. I knew it would happen."

Clinton began his eulogy with a joke that he was guaranteed a standing ovation, which he eventually received, by being the last to speak. He then thanked Ali's wife, Lonnie Ali, and their family for informing him that he was handpicked by the boxer himself to speak at the memorial service.

PHOTO: President Bill Clinton leans on former world boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2000. Manny Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images
President Bill Clinton leans on former world boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2000.

The former president said Ali refused to become a victim and "decided very young to write his own life story." Clinton also recalled how smart Ali was, adding that he never got credit for his intelligence.

"In the end, he was fun to be around," Clinton said, recounting a story of a time after his presidency when he was "trying to be dignified." Clinton was older, with gray hair, and saying stuff in a "very high-tone language," and Ali put his fingers up behind the former president's head to form bunny ears.

Ali touched so many young people's lives, Clinton said, calling that the "most important thing of all."

"We all have an Ali story," he said.