RALEIGH, N.C. – Most people win $150 from a lottery ticket and pick it up the next day.

Jackie Alston won $74.5 million in the Powerball drawing – she chose the $36 million lump sum – and waited two months and 10 days before going to the Raleigh headquarters Friday morning to claim it.

The Halifax, N.C., resident, the fifth North Carolinian to win the jackpot and the first to buy her ticket in the state, knew she had won the day after the drawing Nov. 29.

She told her brother, who then let her cousins know. She quit her job at a Virginia prison, where word quickly spread of her good fortune. Even her neighbors were in the loop.

But she waited until Thursday to call the lottery.

“I wanted to be prepared,” she said.

Alston, 38, was definitely prepared Friday, when she arrived at the North Raleigh office in a stretch limousine with her brother, a cousin, a media consultant and a financial adviser.

She spoke briefly to reporters, picked up her oversized ceremonial check and signed the paperwork to receive the cash.

Alston, a single mother who declared bankruptcy in 1997, chose to take the lump-sum payment of $36 million for the jackpot instead of 30 payments totaling $74.5 million over 29 years. After federal and state taxes are taken out, the lump-sum jackpot is worth a little over $24 million.

She said she did not know yet what she’ll do with the money.

“I think I’m still in shock, actually,” she said.

Powerball is a popular multi-state lottery game in which players pick six numbers. Tickets have been sold in North Carolina since May, but residents bought winning tickets in neighboring states before then.

The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 146 million.

Alston played the lottery in Virginia from time to time, and started buying tickets in North Carolina several months ago. She always bought the same numbers – 2, 8, 9, 12, 19 – the ages of her daughter, nieces and nephews.

Ron Hill, who is married to her cousin, said that family-based habit was just like Alston. In the early 1990s, she and some close relatives bought a large plot of land and put mobile homes near each other. The private road is called Family Drive.

“She’s a very nice woman, a nice neighbor and a great family member,” Hill said.

She bought the winning ticket at the Shell Travel World in Halifax County, about 15 miles from the Virginia border. She realized she had the winning ticket the next afternoon, and immediately called her brother, Algernon.

“He checked the numbers two or three times,” she said. “He was like, “Girl, yeah, we won!”

On Dec. 8, she quit her job as a corrections officer at the Brunswick Correctional Center, where she had worked since 1991. Prison spokeswoman Cassandra Taylor said her coworkers heard about the win then.

“We’re all very happy for her,” Taylor said.

Alston stashed the ticket in a safety deposit box at the bank until Friday morning. Under Powerball rules, she had until May 29 to pick up her winnings, or the prize money would have been redistributed to all participating states.

The long delay left state lottery officials nervous that the jackpot would go unclaimed, just as a $200,000 second-tier prize had in May. That would have meant a lost opportunity for good publicity for the lottery and a short-term boost to ticket sales.

“It shows players that you can win,” said lottery spokeswoman Alice Garland.

Hill, for one, said he was going to buy more tickets.

“I’ve seen it on TV a lot, but it was always other states and other people,” he said. “Now that I see that it can really happen, I think I’m going to buy more tickets.”

(News & Observer staff writer J. Andrew Curliss contributed to this report.)

(c) 2007, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

Visit The News & Observer online at http://www.newsobserver.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-02-16-07 1954EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.