SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NECN) -- While many people around the world felt connected to Nelson Mandela, there are those who were lucky enough to meet the former South African President in person.

Jon Jennings, a former coach for the Boston Celtics who now lives in Maine, had three encounters with Mandela. The first was 23 years ago when Nelson Mandela came to Boston.

Nelson mandela visited the city as part of a U.S. Tour and Jennings was asked to present him with an authentic Boston Celtics jersey.

"I had a chance to speak to him a little bit and then actually present him a jersey with his name on the back and a number one," said Jennings. Their encounter was brief... but jennings knew he had met someone

Jennings said Mandela's example helped inspire him to help form team harmony with the late Reggie Lewis and Lenny Zakim. It was an event that brought together thousands of teens in Boston
to rally against hate.

In the late 90's jennings saw mandela again, when he was working as a White House Fellow in Washington, DC.

"He came to washington and visited with President Clinton.... I snuck in the back. Probably shouldn't have been there but I did."

There would be one more meeting with Mandela for Jon Jennings...this time, far more personal.

Jennings, who now works in South Portland as the Assistant City Manager, recalls traveling to South Africa on business ten years ago. He had become friendly with Mandela's son in law and was invited to dinner at Mandela's home.

Jennings did ask Mandela if he still had his Celtics jersey.

The answer was yes.

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