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According to PiL it is simply to allow Lua to act as a calculator more easily.

'=' only is changed to "return" in interactive mode (I think) and only
if it is the first character.


>  = 5 + 5

will give you a syntax error, because '=' comes after a space.

-Patrick Donnelly

"One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing
to do and always a clever thing to say."

-Will Durant