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Mega Millions: One winner collects prize, the other remains unknown

Dusk falls on the home listed for Ira Curry, one of two Mega Millions lottery ticket winners that were identified by lottery officials in the $636 million drawing on Wednesday, in Stone Mountain, Ga.

One mega-millionaire down, one to go.

While a 56-year-old Georgia woman celebrates her sudden fortune, the person with whom she will share a $648 million Mega Millions jackpot remains a mystery.

That person bought a ticket bearing the numbers 8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7 at Jenny’s Gift and Kids Wear in San Jose. Thuy Nguyen, the store owner, said he will probably know the person when they come forward.

“Mostly my customer here is my friend,” said Nguyen, who won a bonus of $1 million himself.

Wednesday, lottery officials identified the Georgia winner as Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, an Atlanta suburb. According to a statement released by lottery officials, Curry said of winning: “It’s unreal. It’s like I’m still dreaming.”

Curry bought a single ticket, playing a combinations of family birthdays and her lucky number 7. She chose a single-payment option, rather than an annuity, and will take home about $120 million after federal and state taxes, officials said.

The jackpot soared to $648 million on Tuesday night, after 22 drawings passed without a winner, sending dreamers out in droves to try their luck. At one point, 31,000 tickets were sold each minute in California, said Russ Lopez, the California lottery deputy director of corporate communications.

Thuy Nguyen gets roughly $1 million for selling a winning ticket. NBC News

Regardless of the odds of about 259 million to 1, Mega Millions sold more than double the amount of tickets on Tuesday compared with the week before when the jackpot was a relatively skimpy $344 million, Paula Otto, the Mega Millions' lead director told NBC News.

Curry chose not to appear at Wednesday’s lottery news conference in order to “take some time to think about it with her husband,” lottery officials said. A person who answered the phone at her home told NBC News: “We’re not interested in any publicity at all.”

The California winner might also be taking some time to think about how extremely his or her life has changed.

Al and Carmen Castellano, a San Jose couple who hit a $141 million jackpot in 2001, told NBC Bay Area that they decided to wait four days before coming forward in order to seek financial advice, and their decision literally paid off. The couple is still rich 12 years later, and they credit part of that to their choice of going into hiding for a few days after their big win.

Whether or not the winner stays secluded for a bit of time, Lopez urged the lucky lotto player to sign the back of the winning ticket immediately and keep it in a safe place.

On Wednesday, Lopez said officials had received many tips about who may have won the jackpot. “We actually try to find our winners,” Lopez said.

In addition to the two jackpot-winning tickets, there were 20 $1 million winners who matched five numbers. 

NBC News' Becky Bratu contributed to this report.

Related:

Georgia winner comes forward for share of $648 million jackpot