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Former LDS missionary remembers visiting Muhammad Ali -- and getting invited back

Craig Proffitt met Muhammad Ali while serving a Mormon mission in Michigan (Photo courtesy: Craig Proffitt)

(KUTV) A former LDS missionary has quite the memory of Muhammad Ali.

Craig Proffitt says he and his mission companion visited the boxer three times while serving in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission in January 1992. The two were assigned to serve in the Niles, Michigan area. Ali lived in nearby Berrien Springs, Michigan.

"I always told everybody that was my claim to fame," Proffitt told 2News from his home in California. "I met Muhammad Ali."

Proffitt says he thought it was a joke when his companion first took him to Ali's home in and pushed the intercom button.

"We told him that we were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," said Proffitt. "And he goes, who?"

Proffitt's companion had a creative response.

"He said, we're Orrin Hatch's friends!" Proffitt recalled, referring to the Utah Republican senator who was good friends with the boxer.

Ali opened the gate, Proffitt said, and let them in.

"I was like, holy smokes, we're going to meet him!" said Proffitt.

According to Proffitt, Ali showed the young elders around his home and pulled out "buckets and buckets of fan mail that he couldn't return because of the Parkinson's Disease that he had."

Proffitt says Ali even invited the elders back two more times and was always kind and gracious.

"He joked with us," Proffitt said. "He was a very humble man."

It's well known that Ali was Muslim. Did these two Mormons have any luck with their message?

"It was funny," Proffitt said. "He told us that we were sinners, that God wasn't white, he was black."

But, according to Proffitt, Ali did agree to watch a Mormon video with them -- on one condition.

"We had to watch one of his boxing matches," Proffitt said with a smile.

Proffitt calls his time with Ali the highlight of his mission, and he gained a new perspective into his idol as "not just a boxer but a human being that wanted the best for everyone."

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