AKRON, OH (WOIO) - An Akron man is headed to Muhammad Ali's funeral to finally thank him for an act of kindness he will never forget.
A phone call changed his life one day back in 1979.
When Daryl Evege was 13 years old, he toured Muhammad Ali's house in Chicago and left behind a photo of himself and a note.
He never expected the boxing great would actually reply.
Evege dreamed of becoming a boxer more than 30 years ago.
"He's been my idol since I was 8. Anybody, my mom, anybody in my family will tell you I used to make bags out of pillow cases and I would imitate like I was Muhammad Ali, just 8 years old," he said.
Months had passed since he left Muhammad Ali that note, and one day the phone rang.
"He said, 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. This is no other than Muhammad Ali,'" Evege said.
He said his dad almost hung up the phone because he thought it was a prank.
"I can't believe he took the time to call me," he said.
They talked for 30 minutes about school and sports, and boxing of course.
No one at school believed Daryl at first.
"My homeroom teacher, everybody be like okay, Muhammad Ali called -- sure Daryl," he said.
But then his story made the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal.
He has the newspaper article framed all of these years later.
"The significance with him passing, it's like 'wow, I talked to one of the most important people on the planet,'" Evege said.
He tried boxing as a teenager for a few years, but he ended up playing football and basketball.
Now that Ali is gone, Evege says his actions out of the boxing ring will be what people remember the most.
"That was the heart of a champion and the heart of a fighter. I think he's going to have a real nice positive legacy," Evege said.
Daryl and his son are leaving Thursday to head to Louisville, Kentucky for Muhammad Ali's funeral.
He does not have tickets, but he says just being there is what really matters.
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