Truck driver now a multi-millionaire

Published 4:24 pm Thursday, March 8, 2007

A truck driver from north Georgia claimed half of the record $390 million Mega Millions jackpot, the richest lottery prize in U.S. history.

Ed Nabors, 52, of Rocky Face, Ga., about 90 miles north of Atlanta, was the first person to step forward and claim part of the jackpot from Tuesday night’s drawing.

“I’m still numb,” Nabors said in a deep Southern drawl, after describing that he didn’t learn that he had won until 9 a.m. Wednesday — about 10 hours after the numbers were announced — when his co-workers told them that someone bought the winning ticket in Dalton.

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He elected to take his winnings in a lump sum instead of annual installments, and will get $116.5 million before taxes, or more than $80 million after.

Nabors bought his ticket Tuesday morning at a convenience store in Dalton near a carpet mill run by his employer, Mohawk Industries. The other winning ticket was sold at a liquor store in New Jersey, and the holder did not immediately come forward.

“I’m going to do a lot of fishing,” Nabors said when asked what he planned to do with the money. He also said he plans to buy a house for his daughter, who has wanted to move out of her mobile home for a long time.

When asked if he’ll keep working, Nabors said: “At least two more days.”

Nabors’ mother, Doris, said her whole family was in shock. “We just can’t believe it. … He was shaking so hard they sent him home from work,” she said from the door of the rural home she shares with her son. At the house, an American flag was flying above a patch of daffodils, and a small camper and fishing boat were parked outside.

Neighbor Richard Shanken described Nabors as a quiet man who stays to himself, but didn’t make it a secret he likes to camp and fish.

Within hours after it was announced early Wednesday that the ticket was sold at the Favorite Market gas station in Dalton, the store’s parking lot was packed with news camera crews seeking interviews with store employees.

Nabors said he was a regular of the store, usually getting a cup of coffee there at least once a week. “That’s what I was doing that day,” Nabors said.

Assistant store manager Rachel Gentry said that about 90 percent of the store’s customers are regulars.

“I’d know him if I’d seen him, but by name I don’t,” said clerk Chris Johnson about Nabors.

Connie Sexton, who has managed the Favorite Market for 15 years, said it sold about 100 Mega Millions tickets on Tuesday alone, and most of its tickets are sold to employees of the carpet mills in Dalton, the self-proclaimed “Carpet Capital of the World.”

Lottery officials said the store will get $25,000 for selling a winning ticket.

No other winning tickets were sold in the 10 other states involved in the lottery, officials said.

Georgia Lottery officials said sales were so brisk Tuesday that 10 million of the $1 tickets were sold on that day alone in Georgia, and another 40 million were sold in California.

The winning numbers — 16-22-29-39-42, and the Mega Ball 20 — were announced Tuesday night in New York’s Times Square, where the 12 participating Mega Millions states agreed to move the drawing after the jackpot hit $355 million Monday. The Mega Millions drawing’s usual home is Atlanta.

The odds of winning: about 1 in 176 million.

The largest previous multistate lottery jackpot was $365 million in 2006, when eight workers at a Nebraska meat processing plant hit the Powerball lotto. The Big Game lotto, the forerunner of Mega Millions, paid out a $363 million jackpot in 2000.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.