The American amassed nine Olympic gold medals over a 12-year period, but it was in Los Angeles that he made his mark indelibly with gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay - the same events won by Jesse Owens in Berlin 48 years earlier.
Like Owens, who returned from the 1936 Games to a frosty reception and racial discrimination, Lewis found public adulation hard to come by originally.
His cause was not helped by his approach to the long jump. With the 200m and 4x100m relay still to go, Lewis did not want to risk injury and only took two of his allotted six jumps in the final. Although he won easily, he was booed for not attempting to break Bob Beamon's long-standing world record of 8.90m.
Lewis struck gold in his remaining events, and went on to win five more, including a fourth long jump title at Atlanta in 1996.
Though Ben Johnson's disqualification handed him 100m in Seoul, Lewis's legacy has been threatened by revelations over failed drugs tests of his own - though the US Olympic Committee accepted his claim of inadvertent use.