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Gwinnettians want the Mega Millions jackpot

In this file photo, customers purchase Mega Millions lottery tickets.

In this file photo, customers purchase Mega Millions lottery tickets.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Ben Gresham of Grayson purchases $5 worth of Mega Millions lottery tickets from Najma Gadhia at the Red Rabbit 3 Citco gas station in Grayson on Thursday. Gresham bought Mega Millions tickets at two separate locations Thursday afternoon.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With big money comes big dreams, and that is no exception for Gwinnettians eyeing the Mega Millions jackpot of $540 million and climbing. The largest jackpot in U.S. history will be drawn Friday night, and there are endless possibilities for the winner.

Just ask anyone who's bought a ticket.

"We've had a lot of bad luck lately, so we're hoping for some good luck," Wendy Davidson of Winder said after buying a ticket in the Shell station at the intersection of Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road on Thursday. "We just had a baby and my boyfriend was hurt at work, so he's currently not working. It would help out with day-to-day, family, cars, house -- all that good stuff."

With excitement in her voice, she added, "On the radio, they said you'd be richer than Will Smith and Lady Gaga even if you just got it as a lump sum. Maybe we'll be richer than Lady Gaga and not work anymore."

But not everyone is planning to leave their jobs if they hit it big.

"I guess I bought the ticket for a chance of a dream," Homer Vining of Lawrenceville said. "I would take care of family and do a lot of charitable work. I would continue working and doing what I'm doing because of my chemical make-up, but I would certainly like to provide my kids with a better life and send them off to the school of their choice."

Vining joins millions of others buying a ticket in hopes of upgrading their current situation here i or elsewhere.

"I'm buying a ticket now, especially since it's ... $500 million -- I want to be a winner, too. That's why I'm playing today," Edward Pratt of Lawrenceville said. "I'm from Africa. (If I won) I would go back to Africa and do the best for my people in Liberia because I would invest in transportation and real estate."

As people watch the jackpot grow, folks are buying more than ever because of the large prize.

"Large jackpots generate excitement around the state and translate into increased sales, which is great for the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship and pre-K programs," said Tandi Reddick of the Georgia Lottery. "Sales have been strong across the state."

The sales are good for the jackpot, which rises when people purchase more tickets, but not for the lottery player.

According to the Mega Millions website, the odds of winning any prize is approximately a 1 to 40 ratio, compared to the odds of winning the jackpot prize, which is approximately a 1 in 175 million chance.

With those odds, there are plenty of people buying more than one ticket for a better chance at the prize.

"We've had a lot of people playing," said Villy Usher, attendant at the Exxon at Purcell Road and Duluth Highway. "Whenever the jackpot is big, you get many people playing lottery. One person will buy $10 or $20 a day for this one jackpot."

Mega Millions tickets are $1 per play. There are two options for winners to take the jackpot: as an annuity ($20 million for 26 years) or a cash prize ($389 million).

Tickets are on sale until 10:45 p.m. on Friday.