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NFL great Jim Brown headlines winners of Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Muhammad Ali is honouring another iconic athlete who became a forceful voice for civil rights — Jim Brown.

The NFL Hall of Fame running back will receive a lifetime humanitarian achievement award bearing the boxing great's name, the Muhammad Ali Center announced Thursday. Brown headlines this year's lineup of Ali Humanitarian Award winners that include actress Susan Sarandon.

The awards, which debuted last year, promote achievements for social justice.

Like Ali, Brown, who was at the top of his sport in the 1960s, became an outspoken civil-rights advocate.

Brown, an actor whose credits include his role in "The Dirty Dozen," started the Amer-I-Can program, which teaches life management and self-improvement skills to help uplift neighbourhoods and communities.

"He's been a great supporter in his community and the community at large in stemming gang violence and teaching young men what it means ... to be good citizens," Ali Center President and CEO Donald Lassere said of Brown.

Decades ago, Brown spoke out in support of Ali's refusal to enter the military during the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector.

Ali's decision resulted in a draft-evasion conviction and he was stripped of his heavyweight boxing crown. Ali's legal fight ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favour.

The Ali Awards ceremony is set for Sept. 27 in Louisville, Ali's hometown. The three-time heavyweight boxing champion, who is battling Parkinson's disease, plans to attend the ceremony, as well as a Sept. 20 benefit concert in Louisville featuring Grammy-winning singer Bruno Mars.

Sarandon, an Academy Award winner, will receive the Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship, the Ali Center said. Sarandon will be recognized for her role as an ambassador for UNICEF and her efforts in support of Haiti and the Amazon.

Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Common was named winner of the Ali Humanitarian Award for Education. He launched a philanthropic effort that seeks to empower urban youth by mentoring them in character development, creative expression and healthy living. Entrepreneur Mick Ebeling was chosen as the Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award winner for his efforts to provide prosthetic limbs for war victims in Sudan.

Other award winners include a half-dozen young adults from around the world being honoured for their humanitarian roles. One recipient, 29-year-old Kennedy Odede of Kenya, is being recognized for his efforts in support of education, health care, economic development and clean water.

Former President Jimmy Carter was the inaugural winner of the lifetime humanitarian achievement award last year.

The awards event last year raised about $300,000 for the Ali Center to help cover costs for programs and operations, centre officials said Thursday.

They hope to raise more this year from the Bruno Mars concert and awards ceremony. The Ali Center, which has a yearly budget of about $4 million, is stepping up its educational outreach and programs aimed at such topics as gender equality and global citizenship.

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