The 68-year-old retired security guard explained how watching a news report about the much-publicised unclaimed jackpot reminded him to search for the ticket.
He checked the ticket just two days before the one-year deadline when the ticket would have expired and been worth nothing, according to a New York Lotto press release that was released on Wednesday.
Jimmie Smith had bought the tickets almost a year ago, and claimed his prize with just two days to go before its expiry date.
On May 25, 2016, Jimmie Smith of East Orange, New Jersey, won $24.1 million from the New York Lottery. He said he'd check them when he had sufficient energy.
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Always check your shirt and trousers pockets before you throw your clothes in the wash, or even before you hang them back up in your closet, especially if you've recently purchased a lottery ticket. I was in serious doubt. "I always told myself, 'I'll check them when I have the time, '" he says.
He got the payout more than 26 years.
The highest ever single victor of the New York Lottery was Harold Diamond, who collected $326 million in 2014.
He said he plans on having an "all-family discussion" on what to do with the money.