Michael Hill of Leland said he almost missed out on winning a $10 million lottery prize.

Hill, a nuclear plant worker, stopped by the Maco Depot on Maco Road in Leland and bought an Extreme Millions scratch-off ticket. When he didn’t win, he went back to the clerk who sold it to him.

“I joked with her, ‘How come you didn’t sell me a winning ticket?’” Hill said.

He said he decided to try one more time, switching games to Ultimate Millions. He knew the game had one more $10 million prize to be won and decided to take his chance. He took the ticket back to his car in the store’s parking lot and began scratching.

“I have a strategy when it comes to scratching,” Hill said. “I start with the corners. When I got to the dollar symbol I knew I won something. I saw the one and then the zero and it still didn’t hit me. But then I saw the ‘M’. My heart dropped down to my toes and I lost my breath.”

Hill got out of his car and went back to the same clerk. “I showed her the ticket and asked her, ‘Please tell me what you see,’” Hill said. “She told me, ‘Sir, I think you just won $10 million.’”

He immediately called his wife to share the good news. “I told her to pack her bags, because we just won $10 million!”

Hill claimed the prize Friday at lottery headquarters in Raleigh. He had the choice of taking a $10 million annuity that has 20 payments of $500,000 a year or a lump sum of $6 million. Hill chose the lump sum and, after required state and federal tax withholdings, took home $4,159,101. Hill plans to use some of the money to pay off bills. He also plans to invest the money in his wife’s instructional design business.

“This is life changing,” Hill said. “Wow! Just wow!”

Ultimate Millions launched in September 2015 with four $10 million prizes, and 18 $1 million prizes. All top prizes have been won, but one more $1 million prize remains in the game. Players can also enter their tickets for a chance to win $1 million in a second-chance drawing.

Ticket sales from games like Ultimate Millions make it possible for the lottery to raise more than half a billion a year for education. For details on how lottery funds have made a difference in Brunswick County, click on the “For Education” section of the lottery’s website.