After Barack Obama and Tony Blair, Muhammad Ali was in Ireland on September, 1 to become the latest global celebrity to reclaim his Irish origins.

The boxing legend and three-time world heavyweight champion became the first man to be given the freedom of Ennis, County Clare, for 600 years. Ali visited the town, in the west of Ireland, to pay homage at the home of his Irish great-grandfather, Abe Grady.

Thousands turned out to honour him as he received the civic accolade. The former boxing champion, who retired in 1981, also met four of his distant cousins during the closed ceremony, which was broadcast live on a giant screen into the middle of the town.

Ali, 67, then drove through Ennis, taking in the Turnpike Road area from which his great-grandfather came.

He attended a charitable function at Dromoland Castle before flying back to his home in Kentucky. Ali’s trip to Ireland came during a worldwide tour to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s Disease.

The former champion, who is fighting the disease, once said he was a man who was descended from slaves.

However, there is now no doubt that his great-grandfather, Grady, was a white Irishman who left for the US in 1862. Grady later married a freed African-American slave. The couple’s son, John Grady, had a daughter, Odessa Grady, Ali’s mother, in 1917.

The boxer joins a long line of world famous figures who have either proven or claimed to be part Irish.

The County Offaly town of Moneygall claims Mr. Obama as one of its own, and rumours of his Irish blood prompted the Irish folk band the O’Reilly Brothers to pen a hit single called There’s Nobody As Irish As Barack Obama.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, claims Irish lineage from his mother’s side of the family, saying his roots are in County Donegal.

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