A Georgia man held two of three winning tickets for a $70 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, good for a cash option prize of $26.6 million before taxes, lottery officials said.
Stephen Cooke of Roswell, Georgia, a recently hired bus driver by Fulton County, said Wednesday that he didn't realize until he went to claim the prize that he had double-purchased the winning numbers for Tuesday's drawing.
Cooke will share the $70 million jackpot with the owner of another Mega Millions ticket purchased in Portage, Mich.
Stephen Cooke walked into the Georgia Lottery office in Atlanta on Wednesday morning thinking he'd won $13 million.
He walked out with a check for $26.6 million.
60-year-old Cooke had two of the three winning tickets for the $70 million jackpot and didn't know it.
He said he didn't bother looking at his other tickets when he realized he'd won the jackpot with one.
"The Georgia Lottery people kept querying me about what place I bought my ticket and what time," Cooke said. "I thought that was strange. I already had a winner."
What lottery officials didn't tell Cooke right away was that they knew two winning tickets for the jackpot had been purchased at the same time and same place -- the SaveRite at 10800 Alpharetta Highway in Roswell.
They suggested he return home and check his other tickets.
So Cooke was escorted home by a Georgia Lottery security guard to get his other tickets. In fact, he also had two $150 winning tickets using a combination of relatives' birthdays.
But the news that he was a multiple winner "didn't matter," Cooke said.
"It's already astronomical," he said. "I hope I'll never spend $13 million. That's more money than I need."
The winning numbers for Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing were 02-05-17-21-22 and the Mega Ball was 43.
Cooke became emotional as he told the media how he picked his numbers by using a combination of his own and of his late mothers birthdays. He didn't realize he'd used the numbers on both tickets.
Asked if he thought the connection to his mother had anything to do with him winning, Cooke replied, Id like to think so.
Cooke won two-thirds of the $70 Mega Millions jackpot and got $26.6 million after choosing the cash option instead of having the payout spread over 26 years.
He would have received more money over that time period "if I had lived that long," he joked.
Cooke said he has no children and is not married "for now."
He has worked in sales and was a manager at a bottled water company. He recently finished training as a Fulton County school bus driver because he wanted to work with kids and the school system has an excellent insurance program, he said.
Cooke said he told his new boss to not look for him tomorrow.
"Until this afternoon and I actually told my supervisor I still like it. I was recently employed by Fulton County as a bus driver and I just got my own route yesterday and they all ready spent over $4,000 training me so I like to pass on to other people if you're interested in that field."
The third winning ticket was sold in Portage, Mich., but had not been claimed by late Wednesday. Michigan is one of 10 states that take part in Mega Millions drawings.
At the SaveRite grocery store in Roswell where Cooke purchased the tickets, assistant manager Liz Watson said a lottery worker who came in Wednesday morning to run a sales report mentioned the store might have sold the winning tickets.
But she said employees had been too busy Wednesday changing prices to reflect the week's specials and taking care of other business to celebrate their customer's good fortune.
"So far I don't think the word's quite gotten around yet," she said.
Any Georgia Lottery retailer who sells a winning Mega Millions jackpot ticket can earn the $25,000 retailer incentive bonus payment. If more than one winning jackpot ticket is sold in Georgia, the retailers selling the winning tickets will share the $25,000 retailer incentive bonus. Save Rite #2739 will receive the $25,000 retailer incentive bonus.
Stephen Cooke gets a check for his winnings after finding he held two of three winning tickets in the Mega Millions drawing.