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Two clerks in monster jackpot: Only one gets a $1 million bonus

Jenny's gift shop owner Thuy Nguyen smiles at his shop Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in San Jose, Calif.
Ben Margot | AP
Jenny's gift shop owner Thuy Nguyen smiles at his shop Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in San Jose, Calif.

One gets $1 million. The other will have to settle for publicity.

For the shop owners who sold the two winning tickets in the monster Mega Millions jackpot, it's all about luck and location.

The customers who bought the winning tickets—at a shop in California and a newsstand in an Atlanta office building—will split $636 million before taxes, the second-largest prize in American history.

For selling a lucky ticket at his store, Jenny's Gift & Kids Wear in San Jose, owner Thuy Nguyen will get a $1 million bonus. California lottery rules provide a retailer bonus of 0.5 percent of the prize, up to $1 million, a spokesman said.

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Nguyen was called by state lottery officials Tuesday and rushed to his store. He said that he was so excited he wouldn't be able to sleep.

"I feel good! I feel good!" he told NBC Bay Area. "I'm a lucky person."

Nguyen, who bought the store only four months ago, said he wasn't sure who hit the lucky numbers—8, 14, 17, 20, 39 and Mega Ball 7—but figures he probably knows them: "Mostly my customer here is my friend."

Asked what he planned to do with the money, he said: "For my family, a house. And try to invest."

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It was a different story in Atlanta. Georgia lottery rules provide no retailer payout, spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said. Retailers get a flat 6 percent commission on the sales of the $1 tickets themselves, but no bonus for a winning ticket, she said.

Georgia retailers that have sold winning tickets in the past have also received giant fake checks to display.

"Of course, this location now has the distinction of being known as a lucky store, which is exciting news for them," Reddick told NBC News in an email.

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The owner of the Atlanta newsstand, which is in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood, is Young Soo Lee, 58, a Korean immigrant who said that she came to the United States in 1980.

She told NBC News that she might have sold the winning ticket on Tuesday to a group of players who had pooled their money. One of the purchases included 120 tickets. The office building includes a law firm, a bank and a global consulting firm.

There was some confusion at the Atlanta store after word arrived that one of the winning tickets was sold there. A CNN crew informed the store owner that she, too, was getting a $1 million bonus.

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"Oh, my gosh!" she said, clutching her heart.

She told NBC News later that she was "a little mad" that she wasn't getting the retailer bonus, but still excited that her store won.

In years past, according to news accounts, Georgia stores that have sold winning Mega Millions tickets have received a $25,000 bonus. Reddick, the spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a question about when the bonus was phased out.

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Whoever nailed the numbers beat odds of about 259 million to 1.The jackpot was the second-largest in American history, trailing only a $656 million draw last year, and could have approached $1 billion if no one had won.

In Nipton, Calif., so many people lined up to buy a ticket that the line stretched into the next state over, Nevada—because it's one of seven states that don't offer Mega Millions.

The $636 million, before taxes, is on the table only if a winner or winners are willing to spread the payments out over 30 years. If it's taken all at once, it's worth $341 million, or about $170 million split two ways.

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The Mega Millions jackpot started growing Oct. 4. There were 22 drawings without winners before Tuesday night, Paula Otto, the game's executive director, told The Associated Press.

Otto said that $336 million in tickets were sold for the Tuesday drawing, beating lottery officials' expectation of $319 million.

"It was a fun run," she said. "It was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games."

—By Gabe Gutierrez and Erin McClam for NBC News.