People pay final respects to megachurch pastor Eddie Long

copyright: Bishop Eddie Long's Twitter page

LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) – People are paying their final respects during a service to celebrate the life of Eddie Long, a Georgia megachurch pastor who died Jan. 15 after battling cancer.

The service began Wednesday morning at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where Long had been senior pastor since 1987.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes and former NFL player Deion Sanders are among prominent figures listed in the funeral program as people who’ll give tributes.

The church says it grew from 300 members to more than 25,000 under Long’s leadership and became one of the nation’s largest congregations.

Long, who was 63, is survived by his wife, Vanessa Long, four children and three grandchildren.

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