The day boxing legend Muhammad Ali visited Norwich

The world's most famous sportsman was in the city more than 40 years ago on the last leg of his promotional Ovaltine tour.

The former Cassius Clay, who has just celebrated his 70th birthday, arrived by train at Norwich Station and was taken to the T W Downs supermarket in St Stephen's, where thousands waited for autographs, or just a glimpse of the great man.

But despite the big crowds for his visit on Tuesday, October 19, 1971, Ali declared that the Norwich public were the most civilised he had met on his long autumn tour.

'Most places have mobbed us, pushed the policemen over and become uncontrollable.

'Here I haven't been shoved around. That shows you how civilised the people are,' he said.

In the supermarket, the casually dressed Ali, in a white jacket and blue slacks, cracked the occasional joke and clenched his famous right hand – watched by 22 policemen and an army of Securicor men.

After an hour at the supermarket, where he signed tins of Ovaltine for his admirers, he was whisked away to a Press conference at the Castle Hotel where he answered a barrage of questions, many about his hopes of a rematch with fellow American heavyweight Joe Frazier.

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Ali had been beaten by Frazier in their first world heavyweight title fight seven months earlier, but promised revenge. He said before his tour, he had not realised how many people of all ages were following him. 'Because of this, next time I meet Frazier I will train all the harder. Last time I met him I played with him and he was still in hospital for a month. Next time I'll beat him,' he said. Ali did go on to beat Frazier in a re-match and also later in the fight dubbed 'The Thriller in Manila'.

A blue plaque was erected in 2003 to mark Ali's visit to Norwich.

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