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Muhammad Ali’s Family ‘Want to Send Him Off in the Best Way Possible,’ Says Friend Holly Robinson Peete

He really was the greatest. Holly Robinson Peete told Us Weekly at the Ladylike Foundation’s Annual Women of Excellence Gala on Saturday, June 4, that the late boxing legend was both an inspiration and a dependable source of support.

“When my dad got Parkinson’s disease around the same time as The Champ did, he was dark and destitute and depressed,” the 51-year-old actress told Us. “And when Muhammad Ali lit that torch in Atlanta for the Olympics [in 1996], it gave [my dad] new life and it gave him so much hope. So this man has just left such an indelible imprint on every level of life.”

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Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali

Robinson Peete added that she and her husband, retired football player Rodney Peete, plan to attend the funeral services in Louisville, Kentucky, this week.

“The family seems to be doing fine, especially [Ali’s wife] Lonnie,” she added. “Everybody is just in a, you know, power mode. They’re just moving forward and they want to send him off in the best way possible.”

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The philanthropist started the HollyRod Foundation in 1997 to bring awareness and help to those living with autism and Parkinson’s disease (their eldest son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism.)

She recounted a time when she reached out to the legendary heavyweight champion and he delivered.

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Holly Robinson Peete, Muhammad Ali
Holly Robinson Peete and Muhammad Ali

“He came to our HollyRod event and he literally put our foundation on the map,” the actress told Us. “We started a charity to help families impacted by Parkinson’s and we called him, thinking, He’ll never come. And he came, him and his wife, and it put us on the map, and that’s how they’ve been supportive of us for, really, the life of the foundation.”

Ali died from septic shock on Friday, June 3, after being hospitalized in Phoenix for respiratory problems.

A public funeral will be held on Friday, June 10, and include eulogies by former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal and journalist Bryant Gumbel.

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