* “A total surprise”
* “Nothing ever happens in Dearborn” (Adds Missouri to identify winner on Friday, California to join Powerball states)
By Kevin Murphy and David Schwartz
DEARBORN, Mo./FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz., Nov 29 (Reuters) - M anagers of a Missouri gas station and an Arizona food store expressed delight on Thursday that they may have handed tickets to the two prospective multi-millionaire winners of a record $587.5 million Powerball lottery jackpot.
The two winning tickets were sold at the gas station and sandwich shop in the tiny farming town of Dearborn, Missouri, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Kansas City, Missouri, and the food store in Fountain Hills, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix.
Dearborn, population 500, reveled in its sudden place in the spotlight.
“It was a total surprise,” said Don Palmer, a customer at the Trex Mart convenience store, which sold the Missouri winning ticket. “Nothing ever happens in Dearborn.”
Although the identities of the ticket-holders were not immediately announced, they picked the winning numbers announced at the drawing on Wednesday night: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, and the Powerball number 6.
They will share an estimated $385 million before taxes if they opt to take it as a lump sum, the Multi-State Lottery Association said.
Alternatively, the $587.5 million can be paid out as an annuity over three decades, the association said.
The Missouri lottery said it would announce the name of its winner on Friday morning at the high school in Dearborn. The Arizona Lottery said its winner had not yet come forward.
Some customers and employees at the Missouri convenience store, and residents of Dearborn, said they had heard the name of the winner, a man in his early 50s who lives in town. But Missouri Lottery would not confirm the name, and no one was home at the address listed as his residence.
Kristi Williams, a clerk at the Trex Mart, said she and another employee high-fived each other when they learned the morning after the drawing that one of the two winning tickets had been purchased there.
Store manager Chris Nauerz, who was working on Wednesday when the lucky ticket was purchased, called the news “shocking.” He said the station got a mix of customers - residents of Dearborn, and truck drivers passing through on nearby Interstate 29.
“It’s pretty crazy to think somebody locally could possibly be a millionaire,” Nauerz said. “And the fact that I may have even handed over the ticket is even wilder.”
‘ALMOST AS GOOD AS ME WINNING’
The popular lottery - which is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands - had not had a winner for two months.
After no one won the top prize in Saturday’s drawing, the pot grew by about $263 million to $587.5 million amid a national frenzy to buy tickets.
Bob Chebat, the manager of the store in Arizona where the second lucky ticket was purchased, said customers bought 986 tickets on Wednesday and that there was a good chance he had sold the winning ticket.
“It’s almost as good as me winning,” Chebat said.
“People say all the time that I’ll throw you a million if I win, and no one ever has. ... I guess we’ll see what happens now.”
Mary Neubauer, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, where Powerball is based, said people from around the world called hoping for a chance to play but were told they had to be in a participating location to buy a ticket.
One of the states that does not offer Powerball, California, decided on Thursday to participate. The state lottery commission voted unanimously to join Powerball in April 2013.
“Our customers were pretty clear that they wanted us to bring Powerball to California,” state lottery director Robert O‘Neill said in a statement.
The previous Powerball top prize of $365 million was won in 2006 by ConAgra slaughterhouse workers in Nebraska. The largest-ever U.S. lottery jackpot, the $656 million Mega Millions drawing, was shared by three winning tickets last March. (Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins, David Bailey and Mary Slosson; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Peter Cooney)