Muhammad Ali's Chicago roots go back to the late 1950s, when he arrived as a teenage boxer known as Cassius Clay to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament.
"It was a cold February in '58 when (the Louisville Golden Gloves) team got to Chicago and huddled together in the St. Clair Hotel, a few blocks from icy Lake Michigan," Ali wrote in his 1975 autobiography, "The Greatest."
"The huge Chicago Stadium, with three boxing matches going on simultaneously under those hot white lights, with screaming, cheering, booing crowds, was the most awesome spectacle I'd ever participated in," he wrote.
Alas, Ali lost in the tournament.
The next year at the Stadium, Ali won the national Golden Gloves title.
Later, months before he won the professional championship from Sonny Liston in early 1964, he bought a bus in Chicago and drove it to his Louisville home, where his father, a sign painter, went to work on it. When he was done, the bus was covered in red, yellow, orange, green and blue, and a sign on the side said in capital letters, "World's most colorful fighter: Cassius Clay."
And when he was stripped of the championship after refusing to enter the Army during the Vietnam War, Ali lived in a modest house on the South Side.
Yet he never had a professional fight here.
Ali put on exhibitions in Chicago in the late 1970s, facing Luke Capuano at DePaul's Alumni Hall and Scott LeDoux at the Auditorium Theatre, and he trained for his boxer/wrestler matchup against Antonio Inoki in 1976 by mixing it up with two pro wrestlers at the International Amphitheatre as ABC's "Wide World of Sports" cameras rolled.
He also trained at Navy Pier before heading to the Houston Astrodome for a fight with Jimmy Ellis in 1971. But the closest he came to an actual professional boxing match in Chicago was when he tried to fight Ernie Terrell in 1967 as Uncle Sam was closing in on him.
Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't want the controversial Ali fighting in the city and the bout was moved to Toronto, where Canadian George Chuvalo replaced Terrell.
Still, Ali was often seen around town, chatting and joking with large crowds under the "L" tracks on 63rd Street or attending local events.
He visited Johnny Coulan's Windy City Gym when it was on the second floor of an old building along the 63rd Street tracks and tried to lift the former bantamweight champion, who still was near his 118-pound fighting weight. A lot of strong men tried, but none was able to lift the wiry ex-fighter if he didn't want them to.
Young amateur boxer Joe Flowers was in high school in 1977 when he heard a commotion while working out at the Windy City Boys Club, also on 63rd Street. He and his fellow boxers went from the gym in the back of the building to the front to see that Ali had entered the building.
The heavyweight champion at the time, Ali sparred with the boys, then told them to gather around him. With the young boxers listening intently, Ali asked them how they were doing in school. When the kids assured Ali they were doing well, he told them they should give up boxing as it's too difficult to make a living as a boxer.
"You could have heard a pin drop," Flowers recalled. The gym's trainers were angry, and Flowers didn't think they ever let Ali back in the gym.
Flowers decided that night to quit boxing.