Muhammad Ali and his innermost circle started a document years ago that grew so thick they began calling it "The Book." In the pages, the boxing great planned in exacting detail how he wished to say goodbye, the AP reports. The 74-year-old three-time heavyweight champion wanted the memorial service in an arena. He wanted multiple religions to have a voice while honoring the traditions of his Muslim faith. And he wanted ordinary fans to attend, not just VIPs. "The message that we'll be sending out is not our message—this was really designed by the champ himself," said Timothy Gianotti, as Islamic studies scholar who helped for years to plan the services. "The love and the reverence and the inclusivity that we're going to experience over the coming days is really a reflection of his message to the people of planet earth."
Ali was never downcast when talking about his death, said Bob Gunnell, an Ali family spokesman. He recalled Ali's own words during meetings planning the funeral: "It's OK. We're here to do the job the way I want it. It's fine." The final revisions were made days before Ali died Friday at an Arizona hospital, his family by his side. In a city accustomed to capturing the world's attention for just two minutes during the Kentucky Derby each year, Ali's memorial service Friday looms as the most historic event in Louisville's history. Former presidents, heads of nations from around the globe, movie stars and sports greats will descend upon Louisville to pay final respects to The Louisville Lip. A Jenazah, a traditional Muslim funeral service, will be held at Freedom Hall in Louisville at noon Thursday, Gunnell said. It will be open to all. Click for more details. (Read more Muhammad Ali stories.)