In an interview with BBC Radio 5, Bill Clinton has praised Muhammad Ali as he turns 70.
Mr Clinton spoke of the boxing legend's power to reach out to the people.
And the statesman said he feels that the sportsman was a key element in changing racial prejudice, helping to pave the way for Barack Obama to become the first black American president.
"He made millions of people believe. He was something unique," said the former American leader.
"There was nothing inferior about Ali - he was superior on merit without regards to his race when it came to what he loved.
He continued: "All this stuff played a role. Society changes slowly, like icebergs turning in the ocean.
"Sometimes great symbolic events affect changes of consciousness of a whole country. Ali reflects a lot of that."
Heavyweight champion of verse's best quotes
So much more than a hero in the ring
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