CHICAGO (AP) _ Floating around the room, Muhammad Ali tried to give some sting to the congressional campaign of his friend and attorney Ron DiNicola.

DiNicola, running for a Pennsylvania seat in November, took advantage of the proximity of the Democratic convention to the former boxing champ's Michigan home to hold the $125-per-head event on Thursday.

Ali, whose bout with Parkinson's syndrome has left his speech slurred and hands shaky, made the rounds of the room and greeted DiNicola's guests. Ali was playful, offering his hand and then pulling it back into a boxing pose. He spoke few words, but posed for dozens of photographs.

``His health right now is better, in the last couple of months, than it has been in a long time,'' DiNicola said. ``He's much more conversant.''

Ali entered the afternoon fund-raiser, held in a private club overlooking downtown Chicago, to applause and moved about slowly. He was accompanied by his wife, Lonnie, a photographer and a few other aides.

DiNicola said he met Ali about eight years ago through a mutual friend and did some minor legal work for him until the former boxer became a regular client. Ali attended DiNicola's wedding last month, the candidate said.

DiNicola faces Republican first-term U.S. Rep. Phil English. English succeeded Gov. Tom Ridge, who held the northwest Pennsylvania seat for 12 years. The race will be one of the nation's most hotly contested this fall.

English won the district in 1994 with less than 50 percent of the vote, and national Democrats have him in the election.

DiNicola ran for the seat two years ago, but finished fourth in a five-candidate Democratic primary field. He said he will attempt to portray English as an ally of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.