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      Visualizing the Mega Millions jackpot

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Lottery players across the country are dreaming about potential riches with the multistate Mega Millions jackpot at a record $640 million. Many people have a hard time visualizing such a large sum of money.

      For those of you trying to visualize the estimated $640 million jackpot: take $10,000, specifically a packet of 100 $100 bills (everyone has one of those laying around, right?).

      Now cover a standard 48 inch by 40 inch shipping pallet with those packets until it is 3 feet 3 inches high. Seems like a sizeable pile of cash.

      Well, do that 5 more times and then youâ??ll have the half-billion dollar prize -- six pallets full of $100 bills (give or take a few hundred dollars).

      It is easy to get excited about a delivery like that, but remember the odds of winning are very long. Imagine one of the $100 bills on the first two pallets has a red dot on it.

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      If all those bills were put in a pile the odds of winning the jackpot are about the same as you pulling out the one $100 bill with a red dot on it.

      The odds of winning the jackpot had been set at about 1 in 176 million.

      Say you do win, how will you protect your winnings -- and your sanity -- if you're really, really lucky in Friday's drawing?

      Experts say whoever wins will face a lot of important decisions in a short amount of time. Most lawyers and financial experts say it's essential to assemble a team of financial managers, tax experts, accountants and bankers while keeping a low profile to protect your winnings.

      Author Don McNay has written about lottery winners who've lost their jackpot quickly. He says most go through their money in five years or less.

      The Mega Millions jackpot has rolled 18 times since Marcia Adams of College Park won $72 million in the Jan. 24 drawing.

      A winner could get $19.2 million a year for 26 years or a single payment worth $359 million. The next drawing is Friday at 11 p.m.

      Previously, the largest jackpot was $390 million, won by two players in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007.

      What would you do with the $500 million prize? Leave your ideas in the comment section below.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)