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Wisconsin man, 24, claims $768 million Powerball jackpot

Manuel Franco opted to take the third-largest U.S. jackpot in history as a $477 million cash lump sum.

A 24-year-old Wisconsin man stepped forward to claim a $768 million Powerball prize on Tuesday and said he just "felt lucky" the day he bought the ticket that changed his life.

Manuel Franco, who lives in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, pocketed the third-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history.

He bought the winning ticket, a quick pick, at a Speedway gas station in New Berlin on March 27, the day of the drawing. He opted for the $477 million cash option. After state and federal taxes, Franco will net $326 million, Wisconsin lottery officials said.

"I pretty much felt lucky" on that March 27, Franco told reporters. "It's a weird, lucky feeling. It's not natural, not normal at all."

Franco recalled that he felt so good about his $10 Powerball purchase that he looked right up at the security camera just to mark the moment.

"I honestly felt so lucky that I did look at the camera, and I really wanted to wink at it, because I just had that lucky feeling," said Franco, who wore a plain black T-shirt and blue jeans to his big day before the cameras Tuesday.

Franco said he didn't check his tickets until the day after the draw. He first saw that he had won a $4 prize, and "I was super excited about that."

The last ticket he checked in his bundle was the life-altering one.

"I looked at it one number at a time. I saw that first number (matched). ... I see that second number (matching), and my heart started to pump and whatnot," Franco recalled.

His eyes went to the final number to see that it matched before they went back to see that the three other numbers matched, as well.

"I screamed for about 5 or 10 minutes. Good thing my neighbors didn't hear," he recalled.

Manuel Franco, the winner of a Powerball lottery ticket in Wisconsin worth an estimated $768 million.
Manuel Franco, the winner of a Powerball lottery ticket in Wisconsin worth an estimated $768 million.NBC News

Franco said he's hired a team of lawyers and financial advisers, and he promised not to blow his windfall on luxury items. He said he wants to travel, pay for college tuition of family members, and donate to charity.

"I'm not sure what the next chapter is going to bring for my life," he said. "It feels like a dream, and it feels honestly like, any moment, I'm going to wake up and I'm just going to be back in my room, in my bed."

Franco's prize is the third largest behind a world record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot shared by winners in California, Florida and Tennessee in January 2016, and a $1.5 billion Mega Millions prize won in South Carolina in October.

Powerball is played in 44 states, as well as Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Within an hour of Franco's news conference, two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Rep. Gary Tauchen, introduced legislation that would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous if they so desired.

"The government shouldn't force lottery winners to come forward publicly if they don't want to," Vos said in a statement. "Just because you win the lottery, it shouldn't mean you lose your right to privacy."

Even though Mega Millions and Powerball cross state lines, privacy standards are set by each state. For example, South Carolina allows winners to remain anonymous, so the winner of last year's massive prize is still a secret.

Franco said that in the days after winning, he was constantly looking over his shoulder.

"I honestly thought there was always somebody behind me every single day," Franco said. "It is really hard to live your life knowing that you have the ticket that everyone wants."

But he added: "Realistically, it wasn't that for me. There was nobody behind me. I just felt that way."