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Mega Millions winner in Kansas claims share of prize - but chooses to remain anonymous

NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET: One of the three winners of the record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot has claimed his or her share of the prize in Kansas but has chosen to remain anonymous, Kansas Lottery officials said Friday.

The announcement was made at an afternoon press conference at state lottery headquarters in Topeka.

Under Kansas law, lottery winners can choose not to publicly reveal their identities. Dennis Wilson, Kansas Lottery executive director, said the state's winner "has chosen that option."

The winner retained legal counsel and a financial adviser and "looks forward to retiring," Wilson said.

The winning ticket was purchased at a Casey's General Store in the eastern Kansas town of Ottawa, Wilson said.

The winner had the choice of taking the annuity option of $218.6 million, paid in 26 installments, or the cash option of $157.9 million paid in one lump sum.  The winner opted for the cash option and after taxes the winner will receive a check for $110.5 million. 

Dennis Wilson, executive director of the Kansas Lottery, announces that the winner of one-third of the Mega Millions jackpot has chosen to remain anonymous.

"It’ll take a few days for us to transfer the money to their account. It was a single ticket holder – one person claimed the ticket," Wilson said.

The Casey's store will receive a $10,000 bonus from the Kansas lottery for selling the winning ticket.

The person didn't check the winning numbers until Monday. "They checked it over 10 times … and still had a hard time believing it," Wilson said.

As for choosing to remain anonymous, Wilson said the winner obviously doesn't want the publicity.

"We all have to understand that these kind of winners need time to digest. They were still in awe that they had won it," Wilson said.

"They're like all of us. They think about the possibility of winning but they never think that it would happen to them - but it did. It proves real people really win - and you could be next.

Lottery officials have said the other two winning tickets were sold in Maryland and Illinois. But so far no one has stepped up to claim his or her share of the prize in those states – at least no one who has produced a valid ticket.

One Maryland woman, Mirlande Wilson, a McDonald’s employee and mother of seven, had claimed to media outlets earlier in the week that she purchased the winning ticket to last Friday night's drawing. But doubts quickly surfaced, and on Thursday Wilson told NBCWashington.com she seems to have misplaced the ticket. Wilson previously had said she hid the ticket at the McDonald's where she works.

Maryland lottery officials said no one has stepped up in that state to claim a share of the prize, the largest in lottery history. Likewise, the Illinois winner has yet to come public.

The winning numbers were: 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball 23.

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