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Updated Apr 18, 2014 - 4:36 pm

Muhammad Ali tours Arizona Parkinson's center ahead of 'Fight Night'

Muhammad Ali recently touring the new Center and visiting other patients. (Photo: Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix)

PHOENIX -- Former champion boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife, Lonnie, toured a Valley treatment center for Parkinson's Disease ahead of a celebrity fight night to raise funds for the center.

The couple was shown the newly-expanded Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The $5 million expansion includes a large gym and an activities area that Lonnie said will be a blessing to the families of Parkinson's victims.

"The fact that we have the support here for the family as people progress through the stages of Parkinson's, is really important," Lonnie said.

Lonnie said the new facilities will help "to educate them (the families), and to give them the resources and tools that they need to have that quality of life, to try and make their life as normal as possible and to keep that optimistic outlook like my husband has."

The 20th annual Celebrity Fight Night event that raises money to fight Parkinson's Disease. Ali, Billy Crystal, Reba McCentire, Robert DeNiro and Michael Buble are among the stars who will take part in the event at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

Ali is a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who is often referred to as "The Greatest." He was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1984. Up to 1.5 million Americans have the disease that, so far, has no cure.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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