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Muhammad Ali To Appear On The Cover Of ‘Sports Illustrated’ For The 40th Time

While it is every athlete’s dream to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, only a few are ever graced with that honor. But for boxing legend Muhammad Ali, it is set to happen all over again next week. The magazine has confirmed that Ali will feature in the cover of their upcoming issue, set to come out on June 8. This will be the 40th time the boxing legend has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Only basketball ace Michael Jordan has more appearances, at 50. Ali passed away on Friday at the age of 74.

The cover will feature a portrait of Ali taken by photographer Neil Leifer on October 9, 1970, during one of Ali’s training sessions at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach. This particular photograph has a huge historical significance. It was taken 17 days before his lineal and Ring Heavyweight title defending match against Jerry Quarry, a fight Ali would win in three rounds. The fight also marked Ali’s return to the game after a three-year suspension for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War, a stance he has since fervently defended.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”

“Muhammad Ali was a singular force of athletics, humanitarianism and social equality unlike anyone in our history,” Sports Illustrated Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum said in a statement on Saturday. “He was a fighter, and a champion, yet many of his most important victories came outside the ring. His legacy defines the very best of who we are and aspire to be.”

The three-time world heavyweight champion passed away on June 3, 2016, at the age 74. He had spent 5 days at an Arizona hospital following a respiratory problem that gradually worsened. Ali had been suffering from Parkinson’s syndrome for a long time, a disease that had impaired the two things that made him the legend he is: his athletic agility and his poetic speech. Ali was one of most admired athletes in the world, famous not only for his in-ring prowess but also for his off-ring personality and for his vociferous battles against racism, war, and religious intolerance.

Inside the ring, he was truly phenomenal. He won 56 of the 61 bouts he participated in over a professional career that lasted 21 years. He had once himself aptly described his own fighting style as the following famous phrase.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Off the ring, he became a symbol of strength, courage and independence at the height of the civil rights era and beyond. In 1964 he converted to Islam, ditching his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, for Muhammad Ali, a “free name.” He later refused to serve in Vietnam, a stand that led him to a three-year suspension from the game, but earned him international fame.

Right after the news of Muhammad Ali’s death broke, tributes have been pouring from people all over the social media including many celebrities.

[Photo by John Rooney/AP Images]