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Flashback: When Darrell Patterson interviewed Muhammad Ali

Darrell Patterson interviewing Muhammad Ali, back in the 1970s. (Image used with permission by former NewsChannel 9 photographer Greg McCollum).

Sometimes one finds themselves in the presence of greatness purely by chance.

Back in the 1970s, that's exactly what happened when Darrell Patterson suddenly learned that Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.

Former NewsChannel 9 Greg McCollum shared the photo above photo on his blog, showing a film still of Darrell interviewing the champ.

McCollum's blog post says, "Ali said, "I wish Howard Cosell was a fire hydrant and I was a dog." Ali was "on" the entire time we spent with him whereas some famous people would put on their "happy face" only when they saw me raising the camera viewfinder to my eyes."

We reached out to Darrell who provided more background on how it all went down:

"I remember that night well. We got a call into the newsroom that Ali was in town, at Lakeshore with an entourage. They had been to Dalton.

"They were eating dinner after visiting Dalton, looking at prayer rugs. We were skeptical... I was at home for dinner, but told the nightside producer to have photographer Greg McCollum meet me at Lakeshore and we'd check it out. Sure enough, the champ was there... his handlers didn't want to let us talk to Ali but the champ said yes and was so very accommodating, answering all of my questions.

"We ran different portions of the interview for about 2 or 3 days on my sportscasts.

"Unfortunately, those were the days of film... ours, including that interview, was melted down into silver and the interview was forever lost."

Sadly, Darrell is right: NewsChannel 9 has precious little archival footage from the days when newsrooms used film. At one point in the 1980s, when the station was switching over to videotape, someone -whose name has been lost to history- made the decision to send all NewsChannel 9's film archive to the dump to make room on the shelves for videotape. Legend has it that the mistake was discovered about 5 minutes after anything could be done about it.

Nevertheless, thanks to both Greg and Darrell for sharing their memories of this one-of-a-kind moment.

Darrell Patterson still checks in from time to time on Twitter. You can follow him here.

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