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John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal
Military vet Napolean Elvord, left, poses at the Madison, Wis. Mobil station where he purchased the lottery ticket worth $14.3 million.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 1/23/2012 1:36:22 PM ET 2012-01-23T18:36:22

A military veteran in need of a kidney transplant had $14.3 million sitting on a table in his house and didn't know it.

For three days after it was announced that the winning Megabucks ticket from the Jan. 14 drawing had been sold at a Wisconsin Mobil station, Napolean Elvord had no idea a life-changing sum of money was right at his fingertips. The clerks at the Madison store that Elvord visits daily asked him if he was the one who bought the winning ticket. But he said it wasn’t him — and as the days passed, no one came forward to claim the prize.

Video: Military veteran nearly didn't claim $14M lotto (on this page)

Then the store manager, Corky Wunderlin, asked him again, and it dawned on Elvord: He had mixed up the drawing days that produced the Megabucks winner. Elvord still didn’t believe it when he found the winning $1 ticket sitting on a table at home, so he took it to the Wisconsin Lottery office, which validated that he was about to become a multi-millionaire. He got a lump-sum payment of $10.2 million, which computes to $6.87 million after taxes, overcoming one in seven million odds.

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“It’s still going through my head,’’ Elvord told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Elvord, who is in his late 50s, had the state lottery officials scratching their heads when he came forward with his ticket. Most people who come to redeem their prize already know they have the winning ticket, whereas Elvord still wasn’t sure, lottery director Michael Edmonds told the paper.

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“The first thing they asked me was, ‘Did you make up the ticket?’’’ Elvord said.

Elvord comes to the Mobil station multiple times per day to buy coffee and lottery tickets, and on the day he won, he let another customer go ahead of him before playing the winning numbers. His picks — 17, 26, 27, 28, 37 and 42 — were computer-generated, and the fact that he bought the ticket at all may have been an accident.

“I think it was a mistake because I was trying to play the Powerball,’’ he told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Elvord’s windfall was also a jackpot for the Mobil station, as the owners earned a $100,000 commission from the lottery for selling the winning ticket.

A semi-retired construction worker, Elvord plans on returning to his native Texas and putting the money toward health insurance. He has received regular kidney dialysis for the last five years.

Story: He won $3.4 million — then went back to work as janitor

"I hadn't really made any plans yet, but I do look at the economy and think about the people that have lost homes that had homes and had jobs," he told NBC 15 in Madison. "And I'm into construction. I like remodeling, fixing up things, and I'm looking at possibly doing something in that area to re-sell homes and bring people back into their housing area."

Elvord is the 71st Megabucks winner since the game began in 1992 and the first since a woman won $3.1 million in October 2010. The game is played only in Wisconsin.

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Video: Military veteran nearly didn't claim $14M lotto

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