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Mega Millions winners in Georgia, California to split $648 million

A mega million lottery ticket is shown in this illustration photograph in San Diego, California December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A mega million lottery ticket is shown in this illustration photograph in San Diego, California December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A 56-year-old Georgia woman played numbers from family birth dates to win half of a near-record $648 million Mega Millions jackpot, but the buyer of a second winning ticket sold in California has yet to come forward, lottery officials said on Wednesday.

Ira Curry purchased the ticket Friday at an Atlanta newsstand and claimed her prize at the state's lottery headquarters on Wednesday, choosing to receive a lump-sum cash payment of $173.8 million after taxes, lottery officials said.

She otherwise could have opted for a larger annuity sum that would have been paid over 30 years.

"It's unreal," Curry, who lives in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, was quoted by lottery officials as saying in a press release. "It's like I'm still dreaming."

Curry told lottery officials she has not decided how she and her family will spend her winnings, said Debbie Alford, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

Georgia income tax of 6 percent and federal income tax of 25 percent are withheld from state lottery prizes of more than $5,000.

Lottery officials said they have yet to identify the purchaser, or group of purchasers, of a second winning ticket sold at a gift shop in San Jose, California.

The jackpot was the second largest in U.S. lottery history, just short of the record U.S. jackpot of $656 million won in a March 2012 Mega Millions drawing.

Young Soo Lee, who owns a Gateway Newsstand, said she was thrilled to learn from local television news that someone had purchased a winning ticket at her store.

"I'm so happy," said Lee, who came to the United States from Korea in 1980 and bought the newsstand nine years ago.

Lee said even her customers who did not win were sharing in the excitement.

"Everybody is a hug, a hug, a hug," she said.

The other winning ticket was sold at a retail location called Jennifer's Gift Shop on Tully Road in San Jose, according to Alex Traverso, a California lottery official.

California lottery official Cathy Johnston said the shop was owned by Thuy Nguyen, who, according to the San Jose Mercury News, took over the business four months ago.

Under California's lottery rules, Nguyen will receive a $1 million cash bonus for selling a winning ticket. Georgia lottery retailers earn a flat 6 percent commission based on sales but receive no bonuses for winning tickets sold at their location.

The winning numbers for Tuesday's drawing were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and 7.

Georgia's jackpot winner told lottery officials she chose her numbers based on a combination of family birthdays and her family's lucky number, 7, a lottery spokeswoman said.

When she heard the retail location of where the winning ticket in Atlanta was sold and one of the winning numbers on the radio while driving, she stopped to call her daughter to check the numbers and discovered she had won, lottery officials said.

Curry, who is married, has asked lottery officials not to disclose further information about her or her family for now. She said she is not planning to address the media directly.

As many as 70 percent of Mega Millions tickets are typically bought on the day of the drawing, said Paula Otto, Virginia's lottery director and lead director of the multi-state Mega Millions game.

Ticket buying reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with 20 percent more chances sold than expected, Otto said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Lisa Shumaker)

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