NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mike Francesa opened his show remembering the greatest of all-time, Muhammad Ali.

“He was at one point the most famous man in the world,” Francesa said. “And probably at some point, with the possible exception of Nelson Mandela, the most respected man in the world at different points, too.”

Francesa said the former heavyweight boxing champion went through “stages” during his career and was “not overly accepted with white America” over Ali’s Vietnam protest.

However, after his boxing career, Francesa said Ali became “bigger than life.”

Muhammad Ali

Cassius Clay, right (later known as Muhammad Ali) fights Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in November 1965. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“He became, as he got older, this almost bigger than life, very spiritual, but almost this mystical athletic figure who stood above everybody else,” Francesa said. “If Ali was in the room, he was the star. It doesn’t matter who else was in the room, he was the star. The Dream Team lined up like little kids to meet Ali. The Dream Team walked around like gods when they were in the Olympics, but they lined up like little kids to meet Ali.”

Ali died Friday at the age of 74. His funeral will be held this Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.

Click on the audio player to listen to Francesa’s entire show open.