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Jackpot Winner Is Warning Others After A Technicality Almost Cost Him $24 Million

"Someone is missing $24 million," the ad read, " check your tickets."

It's usually pretty easy to track down a big jackpot winner.NYDN

The New York Lotto paid for the commercial after finding themselves in a surprising situation. In May 2016 someone bought a ticket at a New York bodega and picked all six of the lucky numbers. That meant they had won a $24.1 million jackpot. But almost a year after the draw no one had stepped forward.

The New York Gaming Comission's Lottery Division head, Gweneth Dean, had to make a surprising plea to lotto players before the winning ticket was set to expire: "We urge New York Lottery players: Check your pockets. Check your glove box. Look under the couch cushions. If you have this winning ticket, we look forward to meeting you."

That's when retired security officer Jimmie Smith decided to check his old lottery tickets. The 68-year-old grandfather had noticed the ads and news stories about the big jackpot, and started to wonder if he could be the winner. It's lucky he did, because Smith had bought the winning ticket, and almost lost his prize...

Like many players, Smith didn't check his numbers weekly.

If you have a stash of tickets somewhere, it's time to dig through them.Casino.org

Instead, he kept them piled up in a pocket of his lucky shirt, waiting to be checked every few months. That's where Smith found the winning ticket, mixed in with a pile of losers, still waiting to be checked almost a year later. It was just two days before the deadline when the ticket would have been worthless.

“Do I see what I think I see?" Smith asked himself when he found the ticket. The retiree was so shocked he had to "stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air," he said. "I was in serious doubt. I really had to convince myself this was real."

Smith was just 48 hours away from losing his entire prize.NY Gaming Comission

The New York Lotto says they're "thrilled that this lucky winner was able to locate this life-changing ticket." Smith says that he chose to take the jackpot in payments over the next 26 years, and will hold an "all-family discussion" to decide how to share the spoils with his two children and 12 grandchildren.

Share this lucky story to remind everyone - always check your tickets!

[H/T: CNN]