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Woman wins $1M in lottery

ALBANY, Ga. -- Initially, an Albany retiree thought she had in her possession a lottery ticket worth $1,000.

Upon closer examination, she found the number was much bigger.

Frances Cole, 65, won $1 million on the instant game World Class Millions after purchasing a lottery ticket from BP Food Mart at 1817 N. Slappey Blvd. Friday evening.

On average, she has gone into the convenience store for lottery tickets twice a month. After scratching off several tickets on her most recent visit, she was encouraged to try just one more.

"I thought it was $1,000," Cole recalled. "I put on my glasses and it was $1 million.

"I was laughing, I was crying."

She claimed the prize at the Georgia Lottery's Tifton office. After opting to take her winnings in one cash payment, the amount came to $734,000. After taxes, the final amount was just over $500,000.

"I'm still happy about that because it is more than I ever had," Cole said.

Even a few days after the fact, Cole said this is hard for her to believe.

"For awhile it was unreal," she said. "It feels good to not worry about whether I'll be able to pay my power bill. I will be comfortable the rest of my life.

"I wake up every day and it's hard to believe it. It gave me more hope to do things I didn't think I'd be able to do. I can do all the things I dreamed about."

Cole said her immediate plans for the money will be to invest in a house. After that, she will play things by ear.

"I don't want to rush anything," she said. "I'm just taking my time. I want to go ahead and do the things I've wanted to do... go to a casino, to Disney World. I've never been on a cruise."

She said she would also like to give some of the money to her family members, as well as to the personnel at the food mart where she purchased the ticket.

"They are really nice," Cole said.

Since its first year, the Georgia Lottery Corporation has returned more than $11.4 billion to the state for education. All Georgia Lottery profits fund specific educational programs including the HOPE Scholarship and the state's pre-K program. More than 1.2 million students have received HOPE, and more than a million 4-year-olds have attended Georgia's voluntary pre-K program.

"Ms. Cole is a winner because of her lottery prize, but we are also a winner because every dollar we are able to raise goes toward (educational programs)," said Kimberly Starks, spokeswoman for the Georgia Lottery.