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Mitoshi Matsumoto, the man who has waged a David-and-Goliath campaign against the Japanese convenience store giant Seven-Eleven, stood in front of a roomful of the company’s franchisees Thursday, bowed deeply and apologized.

Matsumoto has spent the past 2½ years fighting in court for control of a store that the company forced out of business after he refused to operate it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. His struggle has become a rallying point for thousands of convenience store owners across the country who have bristled against the company’s rigid control of their franchises, hoping that a victory would help them win a measure of independence.

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