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How the winner of a $768 million lottery jackpot nearly lost his ticket

A 24-year-old suburban Milwaukee man won a $768 million Powerball jackpot, the third largest in U.S. lottery history. (Video: AP)
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Addressing a gaggle of reporters Tuesday, Manuel Franco had some difficulty finding his words.

But his smile said it all.

Grinning from ear to ear, the 24-year-old from West Allis, Wis., recounted the story behind winning the $768 million Powerball jackpot — the third-largest in U.S. history. It began with a “lucky” feeling as he left work on March 27.

“It’s a weird lucky feeling. It’s not natural, not normal at all,” Franco told reporters. He was so confident, he said, that before buying $10 worth of Powerball tickets at a Speedway gas station outside Milwaukee, he looked into the store’s camera and considered winking.

It turns out his feeling was accurate — but Franco would later explain how the ticket was nearly lost. He didn’t watch the drawing and went to work the following day without knowing he’d become a millionaire overnight.

When he got home and learned the winning ticket was purchased in Milwaukee, Franco said he was optimistic as he sifted through the ones stashed in his wallet. The third one netted him $4, but Franco realized he struck out as he cross-checked the numbers on his final ticket.

Or so he thought.

When he switched hands, he said he noticed one last ticket stuck to the back of another — one that hadn’t yet been accounted for. Again, he began matching the numbers with the winning draw: 16, 20, 37, 44, 62 and the Powerball, 12.

“I saw the first number, I didn’t think much of it, but I knew that it was something special because I normally don’t get the first number,” he said. Subsequently, he matched the second number — then the Powerball — before going back and checking the remaining three digits. He described his increasing excitement as he realized what was happening.

Franco, who says he’s played the lottery since the day he turned 18, had finally won the jackpot.

“It was amazing. My heart started racing, blood pumping. . . . My blood felt warm. I screamed for about five or 10 minutes,” he recalled. “Good thing my neighbors didn’t hear,” he said.

He added that he hopes to do some good with the money and “help out the world.”

Under Wisconsin law, lottery winners are not allowed to remain anonymous. Franco said he opted for the $477 million lump sum over the $768 million annuity option, which would have been paid out over 29 years, according to the Associated Press.

Lottery officials told ABC he will earn about $326 million after taxes.

According to the AP, the odds of matching all six balls were 1 in 292.2 million. Seven tickets across the country matched five white balls but missed the Powerball, netting each of the ticket holders a $1 million prize.

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