(CBS) – Muhammad Ali trained and grew closer to the Nation of Islam here in Chicago.

The city that helped mold him mourned him Saturday, after news broke that “The Greatest” had passed away at age 74.

Fan Rodney Johnson says he woke up to the news and felt compelled to visit Ali’s old Hyde Park home.

He says he has many fond memories of seeing the boxing legend around town.

“If you weren’t living in those times, it’s kind of hard to imagine what it was like then. He was almost a mythical figure in life, at that time — my first real hero,” Johnson tells CBS 2.

Ali was a common sight at Windy City Gym back in the 1970s. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. remembered the boxer as a champion of social change.

“Segregation and democracy could not be reconciled. He rebelled against that system. He used his high platform to speak out loudly against a system of oppression that undermined the very promise of America,” Jackson said at a news conference Saturday.

Meanwhile, some of Ali’s Chicago family members prepared to go to Louisville, Kentucky, the champ’s hometown, which will be the site of his funeral next week.

Shaakira Ali, who married the boxer’s oldest son, said her husband  rushed to an Arizona hospital to see his father for the last time.

“I didn’t think he knew how bad it was — we really didn’t know,” she tells CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross. “He passed away, just like that.”