350 toast Muhammad Ali at first of five 70th birthday parties

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, with his wife, Lonnie, right, waves to friends attending a celebration for his 70th birthday at the Muhammad Ali Center on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Louisville, Ky. Ali turns 70 Tuesday. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, with his wife, Lonnie, right, waves to friends at a celebration for his 70th birthday at the Muhammad Ali Center on Jan. 14, 2012, in Louisville, Ky.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CBS/AP) At 70, Muhammad Ali is "still the greatest" to friends and admirers worldwide. And to prove it, he is having five parties to celebrate his 70th birthday.

Pictures: Muhammad Ali

The boxing champ, whose birthday is Tuesday, basked in chants of "Ali! Ali!" as hundreds of supporters cheered him on Saturday night with a hearty rendering of "Happy Birthday" during the first of these parties in his Kentucky hometown.

As party-goers mingled in a lobby of the Muhammad Ali Center before the festivities, Ali walked slowly to a second-floor balcony overlooking them. The crowd immediately began to clap, then broke into effusive chants and singing. The three-time world heavyweight champion, who is battling Parkinson's disease, leaned against a rail and raised his right hand to wave to the crowd. Then he joined his party out of view of the public and the press.

The guest list numbered 350 for the private party, which doubled as a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for the Ali Center, a six-year-old cultural and education complex designed to be a legacy to his social activism. The six-story center also retraces Ali's career, including his epic bouts against Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sonny Liston.

The guest list included Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee and three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran. Ali, perhaps the most prominent U.S. Muslim, lobbied for their release. Rocker John Mellencamp headlined the entertainment.

  • CBS News Staff

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