Thousands of people gathered to say goodbye to football great Pele at his funeral procession in Brazil on Tuesday.

Pele’s coffin, adorned with Brazilian and Santos FC flags, passed through the streets of Santos to reach the cemetery where he was to be buried.

The three-time World Cup champion, who died Thursday at the age of 82, will be buried Tuesday after a small funeral attended by his family.

The procession brought thousands of visitors after a 24-hour vigil at the Vila Belmiro stadium, home of Santos FC.

“Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time,” said Caio Zarque, who attended the public viewing. “He made the sport important for Brazil and Brazil important for the world.”

Pele died of organ failure after a battle with colon cancer. He scored his 77 goals in 92 career international matches and led Brazil to World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He played for Santos FC from 1956 to 1974, scoring 618 goals for the club, before playing for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977.

“I didn’t get to see him play, but loving Pele is a tradition passed down from father to son at Santos,” said Claudio Carranza, 32, who also attended the stadium.

“I learned his history, saw his goals and realized how important Santos FC is because he is important. I know there are kids out there who are stoked, but that’s because they’ve never seen Pele in action, and if they did, they’d feel this gratitude I feel right now.

For news wire services

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