Ali goes back to the woods"It's just like old times," said...

Off the beat

June 05, 1991

Ali goes back to the woods

"It's just like old times," said 49-year-old Muhammad Ali, in the whisper that often passes for his voice. "Like the old days."

Yesterday, Ali, who suffers from Parkinson's syndrome, took a stroll down memory lane as he and some former confidants, along with media members, went to Deer Lake, Pa., his former training camp.

"I think this helps him a lot, really lifts his spirits," said Wali Muhammad, one of Ali's trainers for two decades. "I'm glad for him. It brings back a lot of good memories for all of us.

"When we were walking around before, he said to me, 'We're back home.' "

"See how his face lights up when he gets here," said Jeremiah Shabazz, whose association with Ali spans a quarter-century. "He bought this place in 1972, and the only times he didn't train here were the fights we lost. We learned from those mistakes and came back to the woods."

Ali is back in the woods again, standing on a boulder painted with Sonny Liston's name. He is doing his best imitation of a bear's growl, mugging for the cameramen.

Later, surrounded by workers for the Muhammad Ali Save Our Children Foundation, he opens up. It is vintage Ali without the decibels.

"Boxing was my field mission, the first part of my life," he said. "I predict all the preachers in the world, all the churches and religions, I will beat them in working for good. I will spread more religion and get more people than all of the religions. I will be the greatest evangelist ever."

Welcome back, Muhammad.

The quote

Soccer legend Pele, quoted in reference to a paternity suit filed by a 26-year-old woman: "It could have happened. I should thank God this was the only case that came up."

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