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Soccer legend Diego Maradona mourned in Naples

Three decades have passed since Diego Maradona last played for Naples, but he towers over the city — with a status somewhere between a tall-tale hero and patron saint.

Tour guides reverently point out the restaurants where he ate. Bars string his jersey on the wall. His painted image rises floor-to-sky on the side of blue-collar apartment buildings. Tourist shops hawk his figurine alongside that of the pope.

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People gather under a mural of Diego Maradona in Naples on Nov. 25, the day he died.

Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse/AP

Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse/AP

A man pays homage to Maradona in front of a makeshift shrine of the soccer legend in Naples.

Salvatore Laporta/AP

Salvatore Laporta/AP

People gather to mourn outside San Paolo Stadium in Naples.

Ciro De Luca/Reuters

Ciro De Luca/Reuters

A man with a Maradona face mask is seen in Naples.

Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Maradona was Argentinian, not Italian, but he became a de facto Italian — and more specifically — Neapolitan — during the 1980s, coming to Naples via a high-profile signing to rescue a wayward club. For the welcome ceremony, at the city’s soccer stadium, Maradona arrived by helicopter. Some 75,000 were there to cheer him.

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Napoli's fans display a Maradona flag during a football match in Naples in 2013.

Roberto Salomone/AFP/Getty Images

Roberto Salomone/AFP/Getty Images

Napoli supporters pose among Maradona street art in Naples on Feb. 25.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Items are displayed at the Maradona museum in Naples.

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

A mural by Argentine artist Santiago Spiga of Maradona in Naples.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After his death Wednesday, the outpouring was visceral, with Neapolitans remembering not only the championships he brought to the city, but the way he altered Italian soccer’s center of gravity.

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Before Maradona, the northern clubs from wealthier cities had dominated the Italian league. With Maradona, Naples — gritty, poverty-stricken Naples — was the soccer king. “For us, he’s the one who made Naples dream,” the mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, said in a Facebook video. “He gave us happiness. Many called their children Diego.”

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Maradona supporters watch as he receives honorary citizenship at San Paolo Stadium in Naples on July 5, 2017.

Anadolu Agency

Anadolu Agency

Maradona receives honorary citizenship from Naples' mayor, Luigi de Magistris.

Marco Cantile/LightRocket/Getty Images

Marco Cantile/LightRocket/Getty Images

A Neapolitan supporter holds a placard depicting Maradona during the ceremony.

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

A mural of Maradona by Italian artist Jorit Agoch is seen in San Giovanni, near Naples.

Renato Esposito/AFP/Getty Images

Renato Esposito/AFP/Getty Images

Italian artist Jorit Agoch works on a mural of Maradona.

Renato Esposito/AFP/Getty Images

Renato Esposito/AFP/Getty Images

Maradona attends the Italian Cup semifinal in Naples on Feb. 12, 2014.

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Napoli supporters celebrate Maradona's birthday at San Paolo Stadium on Oct. 30, 2019.

Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

A Napoli supporter shows a banner that reads, "Teacher I promise that if we win the championship I will study history ... of Maradona."

Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images