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South Carolina service station sells winning $400 million Powerball ticket

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A gasoline station in central South Carolina sold the winning ticket in the $400 million Powerball jackpot drawing, lottery officials said on Thursday, as they waited for the winner to claim the prize.

The winning numbers drawn late on Wednesday, 7, 10, 22, 32, 35 and Powerball 19, netted the so-far unidentified ticket-holder the fourth-largest prize in the lottery's history and the fifth-largest of any U.S. lottery, the Multi-State Lottery Association said.

The lottery player purchased the terminal-generated winning ticket at a Murphy USA gasoline station in Lexington, South Carolina, on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

Store manager Keith Wedmore said it was the first-ever winning Powerball ticket sold by the station, which is near the intersection of two highways and is frequented by travelers.

"I was at the store at the time," Wedmore said in a phone interview. "I don't know who it went to."

The jackpot had soared since Saturday, when no one won the $317 million top prize.

The grand prize winner has 180 days to claim the windfall in the state capital of Columbia, said Paula Harper Bethea, executive director of the South Carolina Education Lottery.

At a press conference outside the gas station, she cautioned the ticket-holder to sign the back of it, secure it and talk to a trusted adviser.

"This is a life-changing event. There are a lot of zeros in this money," she said.

Powerball prizes have been getting larger, in part because the ticket price rose to $2 from $1 in January, and because California, the most populous U.S. state, joined in April.

Powerball is played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Chances of winning the big prize are 1 in 175 million, the lottery said.

The largest Powerball jackpot was $590.5 million, won by a Florida woman in May. Ticket holders in New Jersey and Minnesota shared a $448 million jackpot in August.

The amounts paid to the winners were substantially smaller because they chose cash over an annuity.

The winner of Wednesday's drawing can take $233 million in cash or the full prize paid over 29 years, lottery officials said.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone, Chris Reese, Maureen Bavdek and David Gregorio)

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