Thousands lined the procession route ahead of the funeral of boxing legend Muhammad Ali ©Getty Images

Tens of thousands have lined the streets in Louisville today to pay their respects to boxing legend Muhammad Ali during his funeral procession.

Ali, the three-time former heavyweight champion who is considered one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, died aged 74 last Friday (June 4).

As the hearse carrying the coffin of the 1960 Olympic gold medallist, whose role as a cultural activist outside of the ring on topics such as racism and war also drew widespread acclaim, made its way through his hometown, fans and well-wishers chanted his name.

Onlookers also threw flowers on the hearse, particularly when the procession drove past his childhood home.

It also visited several sites of great importance for Ali during his life, including the Muhammad Ali Center and the Center for African American Heritage

The route itself follows that of the victory parade which took place after Ali shot to fame by winning light heavyweight gold at the Rome 1960 Olympics.

The procession then arrived at the Cave Hill Cemetery ahead of a private ceremony where Ali will be laid to rest.

American actor Will Smith will be one of the pallbearers
American actor Will Smith will be one of the pallbearers ©Getty Images

Among the pallbearers are former heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, as well as star American actor Will Smith, while former President Bill Clinton is among those giving a eulogy for a man they called “The Greatest”.

“The term 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' will always be remembered,” Briton Lewis, who won super heavyweight gold at Seoul 1988, said.

“He is an icon and a legend of boxing.”

Ali’s wife Lonnie, and daughters Maryum and Rasheda, are also due to speak, along with comedian Billy Crystal.

After the conclusion of the service, a special memorial event will be held at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, where as many as 15,000 people paid their tributes to the iconic sporting legend.

Tickets for the event were free, though there have been reports of people trying to sell them online.

The day of Ali’s funeral began with Muslim prayer service, which attracted 14,000 people.