(Reuters) - Charles Hickson, the Mississippi man who claimed he was abducted and probed by aliens while he was fishing with a friend in 1973 and never backed off the story despite the ridicule he endured, has died.

Hickson, 80, died last Friday of a heart attack, his family said on Tuesday.

Hickson, then 42, was fishing with 19-year-old Calvin Parker Jr. on a pier near Pascagoula, Mississippi in October 1973 when they said a cigar-shaped UFO with flashing blue lights suddenly appeared above them.

A door opened up, the two men later told authorities, and they were pulled into the craft by aliens, who paralyzed them, examined them on a table and then let them go.

Although Hickson was reluctant to share the story -- he said all he and Parker wanted to do "was go fishing" and he feared people would "laugh me out of Jackson County" -- he and Parker eventually went to local police and reported the incident.

"They weren't lying," the chief investigator for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department told reporters at the time. "Whatever it was, it was real to them."

As word of their claims leaked out, Hickson and Parker became minor celebrities, celebrated by believers in extraterrestrial life but derided by skeptics.

In 1974, after wire services picked up the story, Hickson appeared on a number of national TV programs, including The Dick Cavett Show.

In 1983, Hickson wrote a book about the incident called "UFO Contact at Pascagoula" with William Mendez.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher in Chicago)