Long the public face of the fight against Parkinson's disease, actor Michael J. Fox is likey the first person most Americans associate with the incurable neurological disorder.
But boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died Friday at the age of 74, started his fight with the disease first. He also let Fox know he was proud to have a fellow celebrity brave enough to battle Parkinson's in the public eye.
Ali, the G-O-A-T. A giant, an inspiration, a man of peace, a warrior for the cure. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/MCLyJhLC0X— Michael J. Fox (@realmikefox) June 4, 2016
Ali told Fox as much in a 1996 phone call the actor says was one of the most nervous moments of his life.
"I got on the phone with him and he was quiet for a while, and then he said in a very soft voice, 'I'm glad you're in this fight with me,'" Fox told NBC Philadelphia in the wake of Ali's death.
The two would go on to work together "to shine a spotlight on the critical need to fund research, including a joint appearance before Congress in 2002" according to a statement from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“Muhammad was a true legend — a champion in the boxing ring, and a champion for millions of Parkinson’s families,” Fox said in the statement. “We looked up to him as an example of grace and courage in the face of great challenges. He will be missed.”
Fox also tweeted a photo he and Ali once posed for, in which Fox, dressed as a boxer, looks miniature when face to face with the 6-foot-3 heavyweight champ.
"Ali, the G-O-A-T. A giant, an inspiration, a man of peace, a warrior for the cure. Thank you," Fox wrote.
A funeral for Ali is scheduled for Friday in Louisville. Former President Bill Clinton, actor Billy Crystal and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel are slated to give eulogies at the public event.