MUNFORD, Tenn. -- A Tennessee man pulled a folded Powerball ticket from the front pocket of his shirt and told a national television audience Friday that he held one of three winners of the world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.
"Now I'll be nervous because everybody knows," said John Robinson, who appeared in the New York studios of NBC's "Today" show alongside his wife Lisa, their daughter and their lawyer.
The Associated Press could not immediately verify the Robinsons' claim. There have been hoax winners in the past. News of a winner in California was quickly deflated Friday when that feel-good tale was described as a prank. Lottery officials in Tennessee, California and Florida - the states where the winning tickets were sold - have yet to identify them.
CBS News' David Begnaud reports from the small working class town of Munford, Tennessee, that Dana Naifeh's grocery store sold the state's winning ticket. On Thursday morning, surveillance cameras captured the head of the Tennessee Lottery walking in with the billion dollar news and a $25,000 bonus for the store, which is named Naifeh's.
She told Begnaud she had a hunch who the winners could be.
The Robinsons said their lawyer advised them appear on national TV even before presenting the ticket to lottery officials, as a way to "control" the story. The family said they would go to the Tennessee lottery office in Nashville later Friday. Meanwhile, Lottery spokeswoman Rachel Petrie said she could not confirm the win.
Lawyers who have represented other lottery winners advise against going public until they are ready to manage such a huge windfall. Talking seriously with experts in tax law, financial planning, privacy, security and other safeguards can help keep them, and their winnings, safe, they say.
The Robinsons seemed aware of at least some of the risks, even as they flew to New York - bringing along the family dog - to tell the world that their future income has suddenly grown to more than half a billion dollars.
Robinson did say that he had signed the back of the ticket, showing his ownership of it.
"It's not going very far," John Robinson said, holding tight to the slip of paper.
The three jackpot winners can leave their winnings to be invested and thereby collect 30 annual payments totaling an estimated $533 million, or take their third of $983.5 million in cash all at once.
But first, they must turn in their tickets.
When even the "Today" show anchors said they were nervous for the Robinsons walking around New York with the ticket, Lisa Robinson said: "You can help escort us out."
Their neighbor Mary Sue Smith, told The AP that Lisa Robinson asked her Friday morning to put "No Trespassing" signs on their lawn while they're away from their modest single-family home in Munford, a town of about 6,000 where many residents work in Memphis, about 25 miles to the south.
"Who will be coming out of the woodwork?" said Mary Sue Smith, their neighbor since about 1995. "The thought is not reporters, but everybody you knew in high school and elementary ... You know what happens."
John Robinson works in information technology and his wife is employed at a dermatologist's office. Their son, Adam, is an electrician, and their daughter, Tiffany, who lives nearby, is a recent college graduate. They also have a second home on the Tennessee River, where Robinson "loves to fish," said Roy Smith, who described them as "fine people," dependable and hard-working.
"It could not have happened to better people," Roy Smith said. "He's a civic-minded person, and he probably will remember the town."
Tiffany Robinson said she wants to pay off her student loans. She also wants a horse.
"My first thought was, I've always wanted a horse," she said. "I get a horse now. My dad always said, 'When I win the lottery.'"
John Robinson said they also want to help out certain friends, give some money to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and donate to their church. "I'm a firm believer in tithing to my church," Robinson said.
Munford's mayor, Dwayne Cole, wished openly Thursday for an investment in the town, whose annual budget is $3.67 million.
"We're hoping that the person, as a local person, would recognize the benefit to be benevolent to the people of the town, to the community," Cole said. "There are a lot of needs, a lot of facilities that we could use," he added, rattling off a list including fire department equipment, an indoor athletic facility for local schools and a community gymnasium.
Robinson said he bought the winning ticket at his wife's request at Naifeh's on his way home from work, even though he wasn't feeling well. He bought four quick-pick tickets, one for each family member, then gave them to his wife and went to lie down when he got home. She stayed up to watch the Wednesday night drawing, carefully writing down the numbers.
After triple-checking the ticket, she started "hollering and screaming through the hallway saying, 'You need to check these numbers. You need to check these numbers,'" John Robinson said.
He did, four times, then thought: "Well, I'll believe it when the news comes in on the morning and they say there's a winner been in Munford."
The other two winning tickets were bought in the modest Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills, and at a supermarket in affluent Melbourne Beach, Florida. Each one overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all the numbers.