(Adds second winning ticket sold in Georgia)
By Barbara Goldberg and Eric M. Johnson
Dec 17 (Reuters) - Winning tickets for an estimated $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second biggest in U.S. lottery history, were sold in San Jose, California and Atlanta, Georgia, lottery officials said late on Tuesday evening.
There was no immediate word about who the winners were, but one winning ticket was bought at a retail location whose name was given as Jennifer’s Gift Shop on Tully Road in San Jose, according to Alex Traverso, a lottery official in the western U.S. state.
A second winning ticket was bought at a Gateway Newstands convenience store on Lenox Road in Atlanta, a lottery official in the southeastern state said.
The winning numbers for Tuesday’s drawing were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39, and 7, according to the lottery’s website, Megamillions.com.
The winners would split the jackpot, though they can each choose whether to claim the money as an annuity paid out over 30 years or as a lump sum cash payout, which would amount to half each of an estimated $341 million haul, the lottery said.
The prize swelled after a spike in sales ahead of Tuesday night’s drawing. As much as 70 percent of the tickets are typically bought on the day of the drawing, said Paula Otto, Virginia’s lottery director, who heads the multi-state Mega Millions game.
Ticket buying reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with 20 percent more chances sold than expected, Otto said.
The surge of spending pushed the prize closer to the record U.S. jackpot of $656 million, won in March 2012 in a Mega Millions drawing.
“We’re awfully close, just $20 million. We’re right on it,” Otto said on Tuesday.
Totals would be updated again after the drawing, she said.
By Tuesday’s drawing, players should have bought enough tickets to cover 65 percent to 75 percent of the 259 million possible number combinations to strike it rich, Otto said.
“You don’t know you have a winner unless it’s 100 percent covered, though,” she said.
Although at least two tickets matched the exact combination of numbers that appear on six randomly selected lottery balls, if no one claims the prize it will keep ballooning until the next drawing on Friday, when the numbers were projected to jump to a $950 million jackpot with a $509 million cash option.
“We’ve never had a jackpot this high the week before Christmas,” said Otto. (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Andre Grenon and Vicki Allen)