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Georgia winner comes forward for share of $648 million jackpot, officials say

‘I’m a lucky person’

A Georgia woman came forward Wednesday to claim half of the $648 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, the second-largest in American history.

Lottery officials identified her as Ira Curry, 56, of Stone Mountain, an Atlanta suburb. A person who answered the phone at that listing told NBC News: “We’re not interested in any publicity at all.”

According to a statement released by lottery officials, Curry said of winning: “It’s unreal. It’s like I’m still dreaming.”

‘It feels good!’ Clerk relishes in selling winning lottery ticket

Curry bought one of two winning tickets for the drawing Tuesday night. The other was sold in California, but the winner did not immediately come forward.

Georgia lottery officials said that Curry bought only the one ticket, a last-minute decision, and played a combination of family birthdays and her family’s lucky number, seven — the critical Mega Ball in the drawing Tuesday night.

“She was just in a state of disbelief,” said Debbie Alford, the Georgia lottery president.

Curry selected a single-payment option, rather than an annuity, and will take home about $120 million after federal and state taxes, the officials said.

Curry, who lottery officials said was driving when she heard about the winning numbers, did not appear at a Georgia lottery press conference. Lottery officials said they had spent a couple of hours with her and her husband, and that “she’s gonna take some time and think about it.”

Curry’s employer congratulated her in a statement released Wednesday: “Aspen Insurance congratulates Ira Curry, a vice president based in Atlanta, on winning yesterday’s Mega Millions jackpot. Ira is a valued long-term employee with Aspen, and the entire Aspen team is thrilled for her and her family. It could not have happened to a nicer person, and we are excited for her good fortune.”

The winning tickets were sold at an office-building newsstand in Atlanta and at a shop in San Jose, Calif. And fortunes were very different for the two sellers. Because of differing lottery rules in their two states, one gets $1 million, while the other has to settle for publicity.

For selling a lucky ticket at his store, Jenny’s Gift & Kids Wear in San Jose, owner Thuy Nguyen will get a $1 million bonus. California lottery rules provide a retailer bonus of 0.5 percent of the prize, up to $1 million, a spokesman said.

Nguyen was called by state lottery officials Tuesday and rushed to his store. He said that he was so excited he wouldn’t be able to sleep.

“I feel good! I feel good!” he told NBC Bay Area. “I’m a lucky person.”

Nguyen, who bought the store only four months ago, said he wasn’t sure who hit the lucky numbers — 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7 — but figures he probably knows them: “Mostly my customer here is my friend.”

Asked what he planned to do with the money, he said: “For my family, a house. And try to invest.”

It was a different story in Atlanta. Georgia lottery rules provide no retailer payout, spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said. Retailers get a flat 6 percent commission on the sales of the $1 tickets themselves, but no bonus for a winning ticket, she said.

Georgia retailers that have sold winning tickets in the past have also received giant fake checks to display.

“Of course, this location now has the distinction of being known as a lucky store, which is exciting news for them,” Reddick told NBC News in an email.

The owner of the Atlanta newsstand, which is in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood, is Young Soo Lee, 58, a Korean immigrant who said that she came to the United States in 1980.

There was some confusion at the Atlanta store after word arrived that one of the winning tickets was sold there. A CNN crew informed the store owner that she, too, was getting a $1 million bonus.

“Oh, my gosh!” she said, clutching her heart.

She told NBC News later that she was “a little mad” that she wasn’t getting the retailer bonus, but still excited that her store won.

In years past, according to news accounts, Georgia stores that have sold winning Mega Millions tickets have received a $25,000 bonus. Reddick, the spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a question about when the bonus was phased out.

The winners beat odds of about 259 million to 1. The jackpot was the second-largest in American history, trailing only a $656 million draw last year, and could have approached $1 billion if no one had won.

In Nipton, Calif., so many people lined up to buy a ticket that the line stretched into the next state over, Nevada — because it’s one of seven states that don’t offer Mega Millions.

The surge of spending pushed the prize closer to the record U.S. jackpot of $656 million, won in March 2012 in a Mega Millions drawing.

The Mega Millions jackpot started growing Oct. 4. There were 22 drawings without winners before Tuesday night, Paula Otto, the game’s executive director, told The Associated Press.

Otto said that $336 million in tickets were sold for the Tuesday drawing, beating lottery officials’ expectation of $319 million.

“It was a fun run,” she said. “It was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games.”

A Georgia woman came forward Wednesday to claim half of the $648 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, the second-largest in American history.Lottery officials identified her as Ira Curry, 56, of Stone Mountain, an Atlanta suburb. A person who answered the phone at that listing told NBC News: “We’re not interested in any publicity at all.”According to a statement released by lottery officia

Ira Curry of Georgia has 1 of 2 Mega Millions winning tickets

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Winner will take a lump sum of $123 million after taxes

A Georgia woman who bought just one ticket and used family birthdays and lucky No. 7 to choose her numbers was one of two winners of the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second-largest in U.S. history.

Lottery officials in Georgia identified the winner as Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, which is east of Atlanta. Curry will take a lump sum of $123 million after taxes, Georgia Lottery chief executive Debbie Alford said.

“She has not decided how she’ll spend those winnings,” Alford said at a news conference that Curry did not attend.

The other winning ticket was sold at a gift shop in San Jose, Calif. There winner there has one year to come forward.

Curry was driving to work Wednesday when an announcer on the radio talked about the Mega Ball being 7. Curry knew that was her Mega Ball number, so she called her daughter to check the ticket.

“Between joyful tears and laughter on the daughter’s part, she relayed to her mother that her mother had won the lottery,” Alford said.

Alford wouldn’t say where Curry worked or how old she was. A person who answered the phone at a listing for Curry said, “We are not interested in any publicity, thank you for calling” and then hung up.

Winner not talking

Curry, her husband and other family members came to the lottery headquarters to claim the prize, surprising lottery officials who thought the winner may take some time to get their affairs in order before coming forward.

Alford said she didn’t think Curry believed she had won until lottery officials told her congratulations.

“She said she was just in a state of disbelief,” Alford said.

The winning ticket in Georgia was sold at a newsstand in Buckhead, a financial centre of Atlanta about 16 kilometres from Stone Mountain Park. The park features a 252-metre-tall mountain that covers about 2.6 square kilometres. There are golf courses, camping, bike and walking trails there as well as a carving depicting Confederate heroes of the Civil War, including Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Curry’s house is just a few kilometres from the park. A man who answered the door at her home in a neighbourhood of brick and stucco houses with manicured lawns also said the family did not want to speak. The two-story home had a two-car garage and a basketball hoop.

‘Use it for good’

Neighbour Kaliah Ladler, 18, said the Curry family was humble.

“Some people get big headed but I don’t think they’ll get big headed. They will probably use it for good,” he said.

Francis Boudreaux, who lives across the street from the Currys, said he was happy for the family but sad because they will probably move now.

“I think they will start doing a whole lot of travelling,” he said.

The ticket was sold at the Gateway Newsstand in the Alliance Center building, which is home to a variety of offices, including lawyers, financial services professionals and even the Brazilian Consulate General.

The newsstand is a small, narrow shop with one register. It can hold about 10 people at a time and it is located near the lobby.

Young Soo Lee owns the store with her husband, Young Lee. She grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning.

“I’m so excited and so happy now,” Young Soo Lee said. “I love my store and the customer.”

Earlier media reports indicated the couple would receive a bonus for selling a winning ticket, but Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick clarified that’s not the case.

“They do have the distinction of being known as the lucky store now, and that’s always great news for them,” Reddick said.

The California store owner — Thuy Nguyen of Jennifer’s Gift Shop in San Jose — will get $1 million, lottery officials there said.

Nguyen told KNTV he doesn’t know who the bought the winning ticket at his store, which sits along San Jose’s tree-lined Tully Road, amid a cluster of Asian restaurants. But it’s likely someone he knows because most of his customers are his friends.

“I feel good! I don’t even know, I can’t sleep,” Nguyen told the station.

22 draws without winner

The jackpot started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners.

Some $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday’s drawing.

Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. It used to be about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.

The winning numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7.

A Georgia woman who bought just one ticket and used family birthdays and lucky No. 7 to choose her numbers was one of two winners of the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second-largest in U.S. history. ]]>