The incident came as Sarkozy visited the town of Brax in southwest France.
Television footage showed the man being wrestled to the ground by four bodyguards.
The suspect, who is 32 and works at a local music school, was taken into custody and questioned by police who were already present for security reasons, a police spokesman said. He is now being held at Agen police station, the spokesman added.
Sarkozy appeared to have been seized by the shoulder of his jacket as he shook hands with members of the public lined up behind a metal security barrier in the town, near Agen.
The president was due to attend a meeting of local mayors during his visit to the Lot-et-Garonne region, according to local media reports. Earlier, he was to tour a local factory.
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