Georgia woman wins half of $648M Mega Millions jackpot

ATLANTA (CNN) — A 56-year-old married woman has won half of the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot in U.S. history and has taken the cash option, which after taxes, will be about $120 million, Georgia Lottery President Debbie Alford said Wednesday.

Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, came to the lottery office with the winning ticket of hand-picked numbers, a mix of family birthdays and the lucky number 7. She did not appear at the afternoon lottery announcement in Atlanta.

Curry bought the ticket at the end of the day Friday and it was a last-minute decision, Alford said.

Alford gave a few details about Curry, saying she is married and had her daughter check online for the winning numbers after a radio announcer mentioned 7 was the Mega ball number.

Two tickets matched the winning numbers in Tuesday night’s $648 million jackpot. Curry’s half of the cash option comes to $173,819,742.50, before federal taxes (25%) and Georgia taxes (6%), officials said.

According to CNN’s calculation, the payout will net her $119,935,622.32.

It will take one to two weeks before Curry will get her check, Alford said.

Curry bought her winning ticket in Atlanta at a Gateway Newstand in the lobby of an office building near the city’s Buckhead community; the other ticket was sold in San Jose, California, lottery officials said.

“(Curry) had the radio on, and the announcer was talking about the Mega ball, which was seven,” Alford said. So Curry called her daughter and “between tears of joys and laughter,” the daughter relayed to her mother that she’d won, the lottery president said.

Curry told Alford, “I was in a state if disbelief. I still didn’t believe it when my daughter told me,” Alford said.

Alford said she suspects Curry called her boss to say she wouldn’t be coming in to work because Curry met with lottery officials between 11 a.m. and noon. Curry told lottery officials she hadn’t had time to think about what to do with the money.

The winning numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with a Mega ball of 7.

Twenty ticket holders will win $1 million after matching all the numbers except the Mega ball.

Strong sales boosted the jackpot to $648 million from previous estimates of $636 million and $586 million, lottery officials said.

That’s tantalizingly close to the U.S. record — a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot split by three winning tickets in March 2012.

This jackpot was so large in part because Mega Millions became tougher to win. The prize rises with each miss, and no one had won it since organizers increased the pool of numbers to choose from — making astronomical odds even longer — in October.

The California winning ticket was sold at Jenny’s Gift Shop in a San Jose strip mall, lottery officials said.

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