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Muhammad Ali’s final photo shoot captured a spark that still lingered

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The life of ‘The Greatest,’ Muhammad Ali

FOR USE WITH OBIT ONLY. MANDATORY CREDIT. Boxing: World Heavyweight Title: Muhammad Ali in action after first round knockout of Sonny Liston at St. Dominic's Arena. Cover. Lewiston, ME 5/25/1965 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X10792 )

British photographer Zenon Texeira got the chance of a lifetime two months ago when he traveled to Muhammad Ali’s home in Phoenix to photograph the boxing legend. The shoot produced haunting, intimate photos of a champion ravaged by age and Parkinson’s disease, though the spark clearly was still there.

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After Ali passed away Friday night, Texeira spoke to the Sun in England about the final shoot — click on the link to see more photos from it — saying at first he worried that Ali would not be well enough to take part. But his fears were soon allayed, as “The Greatest” was “feeling well and rested”:

“His skin glistens and he is meticulously groomed with cool dark sunglasses hiding his eyes.
“He is helped into an armchair and it’s clear to see how fragile this man has become.
“However, I am told that even though he may not respond he understands every word.
“I do what I have to do and 45 minutes later wrap the shoot, over the moon with what I have captured.
“I hold his hand, thank him, tell him that I’ll pray for him and kiss his forehead as I say goodbye.”

“Muhammad was a delight to photograph,” he told the Sun. “I feel blessed to have met my all-time sporting hero. To capture his majesty with such intimacy fulfills a dream.”

The Sun put one of Texeira’s photos on its front cover for Monday’s editions:

The editor explains the choice:

The many reasons Muhammad Ali was the most famous man in the world. (Video: Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

More coverage of Muhammad Ali’s death:

Obituary: Goodwill ambassador, boxing icon, dies at 74

Beautiful, controversial, transcendent: Muhammad Ali dies at 74

Reaction pours in from around the world

Tom Boswell: His greatness transcended sports

Jerry Brewer: Ali’s voice will continue to be heard

President Obama remembers man who ‘shook up the world’

The legend of Muhammad Ali as told by Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich

Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods lead tributes to Muhammad Ali

‘Part of me just passed with him’: George Foreman reacts to Muhammad Ali’s death

Muhammad Ali remembered fondly for a life that transcended sport

The iconic moment Muhammad Ali lit Olympic flame in Atlanta almost didn’t happen

‘Wait till you see Muhammad Ali’: A look back at the boxing great’s way with words