Johannesburg - Tiger Woods says he will always remember the unique energy Nelson Mandela "exuded" when they met, while South Africa's biggest sports stars are proudly tweeting pictures of their encounters with the former President on his 95th birthday.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote to Mandela to wish him a happy birthday and Premier League club Manchester City will play a game Thursday in his honour.
Sports figures are showing their love for Mandela in messages and recollections from top golfers, Rugby World Cup winners and Olympic champions.
Mandela remains hospitalised but his birthday coincides with a statement from South Africa's current president that his health is improving.
At the British Open, Woods said his "amazing" 1998 meeting with Mandela was an experience he would "never, ever forget."