Powerball winners remain mysterious

Following Wednesday night's Powerball drawing, employees at the stores that likely sold the tickets celebrated with high-fives and awe. The two winners will share the $587.5 million jackpot. 

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
With television cameras rolling, store manager Bob Chebat, middle, hands over Wes Prinzen's, right, modest $4 winnings, at a 4 Sons Food Store where one of the winning tickets in the $579.9 million Powerball jackpot was purchased, Nov. 29, 2012, in Fountain Hills, Ariz.

Managers of a Missouri gas station and an Arizona food store said on Thursday they were delighted that they may have handed tickets to the two prospective multi-millionaire winners of a record $587.5 million Powerball lottery jackpot.

The two winning tickets were sold at the gas station and sandwich shop in the tiny farming town of Dearborn, Missouri, about 30 miles north of Kansas City, and the food store in Fountain Hills, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Although the identities of the ticket-holders were not immediately announced, they picked the winning numbers announced at the drawing Wednesday night: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, and the Powerball number 6.

They will share an estimated $385 million before taxes if they opt to take the prize as a lump sum, or the $587.5 million can be paid out to them as annuities over three decades, the Multi-State Lottery Association said.

Kristi Williams, a clerk at the Trex Mart convenience store in Dearborn, said she and another employee high-fived each other when they learned the morning after the drawing that one of the two winning tickets had been purchased there.

Store manager Chris Nauerz, who was working Wednesday when the lucky ticket was purchased, called the news "shocking." He said the station gets a mix of customers, both locals from Dearborn, population 500, and truck drivers passing through on nearby Interstate 29.

"It's pretty crazy to think somebody locally could possibly be a millionaire and not know it yet," Nauerz said. "And the fact that I may have even handed over the ticket is even wilder."

The popular lottery - which is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands - had not had a winner for two months.

After no one won the top prize in Saturday's drawing, the pot grew by about $263 million to $587.5 million amid a national frenzy to buy tickets.

Bob Chebat, the manager of the store in Arizona where the second lucky ticket was purchased, said customers bought 986 tickets yesterday and that there was a good chance he had sold the winning ticket.

"It's almost as good as me winning," Chebat said.

"People say all the time that I'll throw you a million if I win, and no one ever has ... I guess we'll see what happens now."

Mary Neubauer, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, where Powerball is based, said people from around the world called hoping for a chance to play but were told they had to be in a participating location to buy a ticket.

The previous Powerball top prize of $365 million was won in 2006 by ConAgra slaughterhouse workers in Nebraska. The largest-ever U.S. lottery jackpot, the $656 million Mega Millions drawing, was shared by three winning tickets last March.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins, David Bailey and Mary Slosson; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Vicki Allen and Eric Walsh)

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