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Lucky lotto tickets sold in Atlanta, San Jose

By JOHNNY CLARK, AP

ATLANTA (AP) — Two lucky winning tickets were sold in this week's near-record $636 million Mega Millions drawing: one at a tiny newsstand in Atlanta, the other more than 2,000 miles away at a gift shop in California.

The ticketholders' identities may remain a mystery for months — California gives the winner a year to come forward, Georgia 180 days — but one winner is already known: Thuy Nguyen, who owns Jennifer's Gift Shop in San Jose.

For selling a winning ticket in Tuesday's drawing, Nguyen will get $1 million, California Lottery officials said.

"You can understand why that retailer was smiling last night," state lottery spokeswoman Donna Cordova said Wednesday.

But his counterparts in Georgia — Young Soolee and Young Lee, who own a Gateway Newsstand at on office building in upscale northern Atlanta — gets no bonus beyond the usual 6 percent commission on store lottery sales, Georgia lottery officials said.

Lee said Wednesday that he hadn't heard anything official from the state lottery office yet. But still, he said, "This is good for me and my family," noting the publicity that the winning ticket would bring the store, even without a bonus.

Policies on store bonuses — along with those on how long a winner has to claim a prize and whether their name goes public — vary by state, according to an email from Paula Otto, Mega Millions lead director. In both Georgia and California, winners' names are released.

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 — most of his customers are his friends. "I feel good! I don't even know, I can't sleep," Nguyen told the station.

The Atlanta store is in Buckhead, a financial center of Atlanta and one of its largest neighborhoods, a vast northern area known for upscale shopping centers such as Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, both a short walk from the store that sold the winning ticket. The Alliance Center is home to a variety of offices — lawyers and financial services professionals, even the Brazilian Consulate General.

Young Soolee grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning at the shop off the lobby of the Alliance Center office building. The newsstand — a small, long shop with one register that can hold perhaps 10 people at a time — is frequented by workers at the office building, which sits across the street from an upscale mall.

"I'm so excited and so happy now," Soolee said. "I love my store and the customer now."

Earlier media reports indicated Soolee 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.

Store customer Melzetta Oliver called the owners "wonderful people," but the news that they'd get no financial reward disappointing.

"I thought this morning that they would win a million dollars," Oliver said, adding that "they should have something."

Each state that participates in Mega Millions follows its own statutes, regulations and governing board, Ott said. She said she didn't know how many states had policies similar to Georgia's but noted that there is a "wide variety of retailer bonus programs."

With winning numbers of 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7, Tuesday's jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. It started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners, Otto said.

Otto said $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday's drawing — they had projected $319 million.

The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum, Otto said. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash.

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.

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Associated Press writers Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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