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Ali Chosen Century's Greatest

Muhammad Ali was honored as the Sportsman of the Century during Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

"This is a great feeling," said the three-time heavyweight champion, who playfully sparred with presenter Billy Crystal after taking the stage.

Babe Ruth was honored by the magazine's editors as the best baseball player, Michael Jordan was selected the top basketball player, Jim Brown the best football player, and Wayne Gretzky the best hockey player.

"It's great to be back in Madison Square Garden," said Gretzky, who retired after playing last season with the New York Rangers. "I wish I had my skates."

In other awards, Carl Lewis was selected the best Olympian, Jack Nicklaus the top male individual athlete and Babe Didrickson Zaharias the top female individual athlete.

Complete Coverage Of The 20th Century Sports Awards.
The magazine also honored seven athletes who had a special impact on their sports golfer Arnold Palmer, soccer player Pele, driver Richard Petty, baseball player Jackie Robinson, basketball player Bill Russell, figure skater Peggy Fleming and tennis player Billie Jean King.

The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's gold-medal performance topped the magazine's list of the 10 greatest sports moments.

Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning homer for the 1951 New York Giants was second, followed by Mark McGwire's 62nd homer in 1998, and Ali's 1964 knockout of Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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