A Knockout Birthday

updated 03/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

WHEN THE GREATEST HITS THE BIG Five-O, you can bet there'll be more than a cake to mark the occasion. Thus, to help ex-boxing champ Muhammad Ali celebrate his 50th birthday last week, Billy Crystal, Diana Ross, Dan Aykroyd and a passel of heavyweight celebs turned out for an all-star tribute at Los Angeles's Wiltern Theatre. The event, taped for broadcast on ABC March 1, included L.A. Law's Blair Underwood reading a poem for the champ, Whitney Houston and Ross going toe-to-toe on a duet of You've Got a Friend, plus appearances by a fight card of former Ali ringmates, including Joe Frazier, Earnie Shavers and Ken Norton.

Ali, whose birthday was actually Jan. 17, flew in from his Berrien Springs, Mich., home with wife Lonnie for the taping and off-camera party afterward. And while Parkinson's syndrome (a neurological disorder that doctors say was brought on by the blows he took in the ring) has slowed his gait, he was still quick to the punch line. Boasted Ali: "Fifty years old, 212 fights, and I'm still pretty."

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