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Ali in line for Liberty Medal

Philadelphia - Boxing icon Muhammad Ali will receive the 2012 Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Centre, presented annually by the group to honour a champion of freedom.

The 70-year-old former heavyweight champion was stripped of his title and kept from boxing at the height of his career because he refused to join the US Army and fight in the Vietnam War in 1967.

(File image) Muhammad Ali. Credit: AFP

The US Supreme Court reversed the decision in 1971, ruling his refusal stemmed from religious beliefs, and Ali reclaimed his crown before retiring from the ring in 1981.

Ali, who won Olympic boxing gold in 1960 at Rome, will receive the award September 13 at a ceremony on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.

“Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution - freedom, self-governance, equality, and empowerment - and helping to spread them across the globe,” said former US president Bill Clinton, chairperson of the centre.

Since his boxing career ended, Ali has worked for civil rights and cross-cultural understanding, having undertaken goodwill and humanitarian missions to such nations as Lebanon, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, South Africa, Iraq and North Korea.

“For more than half a century, Ali has been committed to fighting for peace, justice and civil rights for all in the spirit of this award,” Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said.

The medal, first awarded in 1989, has been given to such figures as Clinton, rock singer Bono, former South African president Nelson Mandela, former US president Jimmy Carter, movie director Stephen Spielberg and former British prime minister Tony Blair. - Sapa-AFP

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