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The king is dead - and his subjects mourn

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UPI) -- Restless crowds of grief-stricken fans jammed the sidewalk Wednesday in front of the mansion of Elvis Presley, the 42-year-old king of rock 'n' roll who collapsed and died Tuesday of heart failure.

At one point, a crowd of more than 300 persons began overflowing into the driveway leading to the mansion. A motorcycle police officer drove from inside the wrought iron gates towards the crowd, weaving back and forth in the jumble of people to clear a path for vehicles to enter.

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No injuries were reported. Police said about 30 officers were on duty to control the throng.

Traffic on Elvis Presley Boulevard was bumper-to-bumper as the crowd swelled for an afternoon viewing of the dead rock singer. His body was returned from a funeral parlor to Graceland mansion where he lived as a virtual recluse.

Fans were to be permitted to view the body from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Private family services will be held Thursday afternoon with burial at Forest Hills cemetery where Presley's mother is buried.

Memphis florist shops were overwhelmed with requests to send flowers to Graceland and flowers were stuck in the gates of the mansion.

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Many in the crowd wept.

"I'll never forget the day he gave me that bracelet," said red-eyed Crickett Butler, 29, president of a local Elvis fan club. Still wearing the bracelet on her arm, she said, "I'll never take it off."

Presley's body was found Tuesday afternoon on a bathroom floor of the ornate 18-room mansion where he collapsed and died after a vigorous game of racquetball earlier in the day.

Joe Esposito, his road manager, found Presley's body at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, but doctors later said the singer could have been dead since 9 a.m.

Dr. Jerry Francisco, the Shelby County medical examiner, said an autopsy indicated Presley died of "cardiac arrhythmia," which he described as a "severely irregular heartbeat."

"The precise cause of death may never be discovered," said Francisco, who also performed the autopsy on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after the civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

Francisco said Presley suffered from high blood pressure and "some coronary artery disease," and the two diseases could have caused the cardiac arrhythmia.

Both Francisco and Dr. George Nichopolous, the singer's personal physician, said there were no traces of drugs other than the medication Presley was taking for hypertension and a colon problem.

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Fans began flocking to Graceland soon after the announcement of Presley's death. Many maintained an all-night vigil.

Toni Ginzer, 36, Oklahoma City, and Fred Lalezarzadeh, 22, who were driving back to Oklahoma from Florida, heard the news about 30 miles from Memphis and drove to the mansion.

Toni said she was hysterical. "I was in bad, bad shape. To think I would never see him again." She described herself as a Presley "fanatic" who attended more than 100 of his concerts.

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