The largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history - a whopping $656 million - will be shared by the buyers of three winning Mega Millions tickets in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland - but their identities remained a mystery, lottery officials said on Saturday.
A pre-dawn call alerted Denise Metzger, manager of a Motomart convenience store, to news from lottery officials that her store had sold a winning ticket in the tiny farming community of Red Bud in southern Illinois, with less than 4,000 residents, about 30 miles southeast of St. Louis.
"I screamed, I woke my husband up," said Metzger, whose retail outlet will receive $500,000 for selling a winning ticket.
The Mega Millions lottery created a stir across the country, with people rushing to buy the $1 tickets in time for a shot at the humongous jackpot. In all, more than a billion tickets were sold.
At least two of the winners' tickets were "quick picks" - meaning all six numbers of the Mega Millions lottery computer selected the lucky numbers announced at the drawing Friday night in Atlanta: 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23.
The three tickets each were worth more than $213 million before taxes, if the payout was over 26 years. If taken in a lump sum, the windfall would be about $105.1 million, officials said.
"Each of the winners gets $105.1 million in cash after taxes roughly, but who cares about pennies at this point?" said Carole Everett, spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery.