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Muhammad Ali | 49ers Coach Wants Team to Meet 'Greatest Sports Competitor Ever'

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Muhammad Ali is "the greatest sports competitor this world has ever known," uttered San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh last month.

Moreover, the NFL coach sorely wishes "The Greatest" could meet his players.

Coach Harbaugh is always seeking ways to motivate his players and to enhance the culture, and, as a result, special people are no stranger to the 49er premises. After all, colonels, generals and Navy SEALs have made guest appearances at the team complex.

Nevertheless, apparently Muhammad Ali and baseball great Willie Mays top Harbaugh's list of "extraordinary people."

It was reported that Jack Harbaugh, the coach's father, met "The Greatest" at a Baltimore Ravens practice in early September and learned wonderful things about the man whose life accomplishments extend far beyond the ring.

One of the stories Harbaugh relayed involved Muhammad Ali's title-winning bout against Sonny Liston, February 25, 1964.

The hotel where Ali trained was segregated, and even the 22 year old 1960 Olympic Gold Medal Champion was not permitted to stay. As a result, the future legend resided in a modest lodge 5 miles from the hotel's training facility. However, instead of being driven to training, Muhammad Ali would run 5 miles to the facility everyday.

Said Coach Harbaugh, who has a reputation as a motivator: "Every step of that run, he would tell himself, 'Somebody's going to pay for this.' And that was going to be Sonny Liston."

Muhammad Ali, a 7-1 underdog, stopped then-world champion Sonny Liston in the 7th Round. What many forget is Liston, like Mike Tyson in the late 80s, was deemed invincible at the time.

Literally invincible.

And while many know about Ali's fabled ring accomplishments, gift for gab, and impassioned stands on political and civil rights issues, what gets lost is his work ethic and committment to the sport. A clean liver, he was the consummate professional and the hardest working man in boxing and didn't party excessively, smoke, drink or take drugs.

Harbaugh told the aforementioned story and another to his players last month. When asked what what he was trying to drive-home to his pupils, the coach stated:

"We don't break it down, Barney-style, at the end of a story," he said. "We don't try to tell people what we think the message is or what it should be. We just put it there, and they relate to it in the ways they relate to it."

As of September 17th, an invitation to the 49ers complex has been extended to "The Greatest."

The 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013.

Source: Sacremento Bee 


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