97 Astro AWD having problem removing the front driver side drive shaft

I have a 97 Astro AWD van with a leaking front driver side axle seal. I am trying to remove the front driver side drive axle to replace the
axle seal. I have disconnected the knuckle from the upper ball joint, removed the axle nut, tapped the drive shaft loose from the hub, disconnected the lower shock mount, disconnected the tie rod end, caliper, rotor and the ABS sensor.
The problem is that the axle shaft would not clear the hub. I pushed the drive shaft up and down and all the way into the diff. Those CV boots are really hard to push in. Moved the knuckle to the left and to the right. But it is just not enough room to get the drive shaft end out of the wheel hub. No matter how hard I pushed the shaft into the diff.
The only thing left is the lower ball joint holding the knuckle up with the hub in it. If I disconnect the lower ball joint, I know the drive shaft would come out for sure. But that lower ball joint is hard to remove. I don't want to damage the grease boot with a pickle fork. My proper ball joint remove tool won't fit.
Here is my question. Do I have to disconnect the lower ball joint to get the drive shaft out of the hub?
How do you suppose to do it?
I am getting really frustrated now since I have tried to get the shaft out twice already. It just won't clear the hub.
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