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Romney Dubs Jack Nicklaus ‘Greatest Athlete’ of 20th Century

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WESTERVILLE, Ohio) -- While campaigning in Ohio on Wednesday, Mitt Romney teed off on who he thinks is the best athlete from the 20th century: golfer Jack Nicklaus.

As Nicklaus, nicknamed the “Golden Bear,” endorsed him in Westerville, Ohio, Romney called him the “greatest athlete of the 20th century.”

And Sports Illustrated agrees -- sort of.  In 1999, the magazine bestowed the honor of “best individual male athlete of the 20th century” upon Nicklaus, who has won 18 major golf championships.

But when it came to overall best athlete -- in both individual and team sports -- another competitor won that award.  Sports Illustrated dubbed boxer Muhammad Ali as the “Sportsman of the 20th Century.”

But while Nicklaus is a fan of Romney, Ali is a supporter of President Obama.  The legendary boxer even sat on the platform on Capitol Hill as Obama was inaugurated in 2009.

Earlier this year, Obama sent Ali a 70th birthday video message, calling him “champ” and praising his tenacity and talent.

“As a fighter, you were something spectacular,” Obama said in the message, which aired at a birthday feat for Ali in Las Vegas in February.  “You shocked the world, and you inspired it, too.  And even after all the titles and legendary bouts, you’re still doing it.”

“Without Muhammad Ali, there wouldn’t have been an Obama,” he said.  “There wouldn’t have been a mixed-race president.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio