History came full circle for Muchammad Ali yesterday.
The heavyweight boxing champion, who was stripped of his title for refusing induction into military service during the Vietnam war, was serenaded by the Navy band playing the songs of the armed forces as he sat alone on the stage of the Departmental Auditorium.
Ali wore a tie decorated with American flags, evoking the patriotism of a Vince Lombardi, who favored s lapel button. The champion alos had an identification tag, with the slogan, "Take Stock in America."
"Muhammad Ali, honorary chairman, ISBC (Interagency Savings Bond Committee)," viewed the presentation of the colors by the joint armed forces color guard and then stood arect, at 6 feet 3, for the national anthem.
"Our country has its ups and downs," he told 2,000 or so canvassers for the federal payroll savings plan, "but I traaveled to 62 countries and it proved to me it (the United States) still has more liberty."
He invited questions from the audience but changed his mind after it appeared they would all be about boxing: "I won't miss fighting; fighting will miss me" . . . "I changed my mind twice before about retiring, but there's no more youth in me; I'm 37" . . . "It's important ot go out as the champion, the only one to win the title three times" . . . "I'm getting out with the last laugh . . ."
"I'm going to start my own United Nations," he told the audience. "It will be called W-O-R-L-D-World Organization for Rights, Liberty and Dignity.
"I'm going to visit several countries, to have better relations between peoples."
He ticked off a list of prominent entertainers he said will him raise money "for old folks homes, boys clubs-black and white. We'll ask communities what they need."
Ali seemed to be a bit jowly and paunchy as he stood at the head of a receiving line and said something to every handshaker. Beside him was Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, chairman of the savings bond committee.
Ali was introduced by Azie Taylor Morton, U.S. Treasurer, on stage.
During a pause, he tweaked Marshall's ear from behind in the manner of a mischievous schoolboy, then rolled his eyes innocently when Marshall turned toward him.
He accepted a three-star general's greeting of "Champ" in stride, the same man (Ali) who once said, "I ain't got nothing against them Vietcongs."