Natchez resident Ronald J. Panda almost didn't buy the Lotto ticket that won him the $762,673 jackpot, which he claimed yesterday at Lottery headquarters from the Dec. 7 drawing. 

It wasn't until his wife, Jackie, firmly instructed him to do so, that he pulled himself away from the LSU/Georgia game last Saturday night to make the 10 mile trip to Vidalia to puchase his ticket, good for two drawings.  The Pandas said they have played the same set of numbers, a combination of birthdays, for the last eight or nine years.

 "I read this horror story about a man who had always played the same numbers and the one time he forgot to buy a ticket is when those numbers came up," explained Mrs. Panda.

She said when she checked the numbers in the newspaper at work and doubled checked them again on the Lottery's Web site Thursday, she called her husband right away. "You did go buy that ticket Saturday, right?" she asked her husband.

He did and the decision netted Mr. Panda $533,871.21 after federal and state taxes were withheld. He said he plans to use the money to pay off bills and officially retire.

Top Speed on Carter Street in Vidalia will receive a one-time bonus of $7,626 or 1 percent of the prize amount.