September 26, 2007 04:00 PM

Beneath Faith Hill‘s ex-cheerleader spunk and golden mane lives a fiery spirit – which might help explain two incidents that turned Hill into an unlikely YouTube sensation, PEOPLE reports in a new interview with the country star.

The first was chastising a fan for grabbing her husband, Tim McGraw‘s, crotch in July and, in what she calls “the worst experience of my life,” being publicly criticized after she seemed to be caught on live TV making a face when Carrie Underwood beat her to win Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA awards last November.

Hill says she was just being “goofy” when she mouthed an apparently indignant “What?” and that the full video footage shows her laughing as she walked away. But more than 10 million viewers watched YouTube’s abbreviated version and, overnight, the sweetheart from Star, Miss., turned into the nation’s sorest loser.

“It was hell,” says Hill. “I was being ripped apart limb by limb. I wanted to quit.”

Her travails were far from over. In Lafayette, La., in July, Hill was underneath the stage while her husband was performing when, she recalls, “He comes down, furious, and says, ‘Some lady just grabbed my crotch.’ He was p—–; he gave her a piece of his mind. So I thought, ‘Okay, it’s taken care of.’ ”

But when she got on stage, says Hill, “The woman gave me this look, like, ‘I just grabbed your husband’s privates, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ My emotions took over. I was like, ‘God, you better hold me on this stage because I’m about to jump off it and get her.’ ”

For more on Hill, including exclusive photos and details about how hubby McGraw lavishly surprised her for her 40th birthday, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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