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  • Muhammad Ali squares off against Jimmy Young in 1976. Ali’s memorabilia is expected to draw high rollers when it goes up for auction Sept. 10. (Photo by Keith Girard)

    Muhammad Ali, easily one of the largest sports icons of the 20th Century, is expected to be a major draw when many of his personal items go up for auction in one of the most significant sports memorabilia auctions in recent memory.

    Ali, was not only a championship boxer, but also a civil rights activist who led a major protest against the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

    A handwritten letter about his conversion to Islam, a seminal event in his life, will be included among the 79 items up for auction, according to Heritage Auctions.

    The Dallas-based auction house said such items as Ali’s trunks from his famous, 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Forman in Kinshasa, Zaire, will be for sale.

    The auction is expected to attract high rollers.

    The boxing gloves Ali wore in his famed 1971 fight against Joe Frazier sold for $606,000 at an auction earlier this month.

    Known as the “Fight of the Century,” it was the first time the two undefeated boxers met in a heavyweight title fight. Frazier won a unanimous decision in 15 rounds.

    In this auction, the gloves Heavyweight Champ Sonny Liston wore when he lost his title to Ali in 1964 are up for sale. Liston was a renowned fighter in his own right.

    Boxing gloves are highly prized by collectors. Ali’s gloves from his fight against Liston in 1964, sold for $836,500 two years ago.

    Ali’s 1974 WBC heavyweight championship belt is also expected to fetch a significant amount in the range of $600,000, according to Kathleen Guzman, managing director of Heritage Auctions.

    Ali was born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Ky, in 1942 and died at 74 at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., this past June after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

    He started boxing at 12 and gained fame at 18 when he won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He won his first title fight against Liston four years later.

    Shortly afterward, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and converted to Islam. The move marked his rise in the 1960s as a civil rights leader as part of the Black Muslim movement under Malcolm X.

    He wrote his famous letter to Life magazine the same year, explaining his reason for converting to Islam. It has a pre-auction estimate of $100,000.

    Ali is survived by nine children–Rasheda, Jamilla, Laila, Asaad, Hana, Maryum, Khaliah, Muhammad Jr. and Miya) three grandchildren (Curtis, Sydney and Biaggio) and wife Lonnie.

    No family member contributed items to the sale. Collectors have owned the memorabilia over the years, according to the auction house.

    The auction will take place Sept. 10. Check out the items at the company’s Web site.