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70th birthday celebration cranking up for Ali, wife calls ex-champ 'big kid' who loves parties
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) ' Muhammad Ali's wife says the boxing great is still a "big kid" who enjoys his birthday parties.
The three-time heavyweight boxing champion will celebrate a milestone birthday Tuesday when he turns 70. Ali will be surrounded by friends who are gathering Saturday evening for a private birthday party at the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville.
"Muhammad likes celebrations that involve him and are centered around him," Lonnie Ali said. "He's still a big kid in that area. He loves birthdays."
Lonnie Ali said it's the first of five parties for Ali over the next couple of months. Lonnie Ali says the champ will be surrounded by close friends and people who have been fixtures in his life at the party Saturday night, including his trainer Angelo Dundee. The party is doubling as a $1,000 per person fundraiser for the center, which is seen as a legacy to Ali's humanitarian causes.
"The lessons this man knows innately ... are the things we're trying to pass on to future generations, to encourage them to be great and find greatness within like Muhammad as a young man here in Louisville," Lonnie Ali said.
The party will include performances by Grammy Award winners David Foster and John Mellencamp and others.
The guest list includes NBC journalists Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Bryant Gumbel, Academy Award winning director Leon Gast, three-time heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and University of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Also invited to the celebration were Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran. Ali sent a letter to the Iranian government asking for the trio's release.
Lonnie Ali said the boxing legend has mixed feelings about the landmark birthday.
"He's glad he's here to turn 70, but he wants to be reassured he doesn't look 70," Lonnie Ali said.
The couple chose Louisville and the Ali Center for the first party because, "this is his home. This is where he started. These are the people who supported him," Lonnie Ali said.
Even with all the planning for the birthday celebration, Lonnie Ali is still unsure what to get her husband.
"It's hard to get something for someone who has everything," she said.