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John Karr of Albertville, Ala., chooses his numbers on a Powerball entry form at the Smart Mart on Highway 301 in Dade County, Ga., just north of the state line on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, atop Sand Mountain near Trenton. A jackpot of over $1 billion is estimated if there is a single winner in Wednesday's drawing,.
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Mervin Hanawalt (CQ) of DeKalb Co., Ala., chooses his numbers on a Powerball entry form at the Smart Mart on Highway 301 in Dade County, Ga., just north of the state line on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, atop Sand Mountain near Trenton. A jackpot of over $1 billion is estimated if there is a single winner in Wednesday's drawing,.

TRENTON, Ga. — A sign advertising the Powerball lottery hung over a cash register Sunday at the Smart Mart on Georgia State Highway 301, just a few hundred feet from the Alabama border.

It was not an official sign with the Georgia Lottery logo like the ones outside the gas station. Instead, it was a simple piece of white paper with "Powerball 1.3 bill" scrawled on it.

"Welcome to Smart Mart. Buy a lottery ticket for a chance to win $1.3 billion," said a young girl greeting customers from behind the counter, where one register was designated as "lottery only."

It was a reflection of the increased effort this family-owned gas station is devoting to the lottery in the midst of a nationwide frenzy surrounding back-to-back record Powerball jackpots.

The enthusiasm is even more apparent along the state lines. Streams of Alabama residents drove into Georgia or Tennessee this weekend, staying just long enough to grab a few tickets and return to their state, which doesn't have a lottery program.

"That's it, right there," store employee Nick Patel said, pointing out the window toward a sign welcoming drivers to Georgia. "The state line is just right there. It will be busy, selling lots of lottery tickets."

Alabamians crossed into Dade County this weekend from as far as Albertville, Ala., for their 1-in-292 million chance of becoming the big winner.

Customers at the Smart Mart casually added Powerball tickets to their purchases Sunday, having clerks print tickets with electronically generated combinations.

Others sat or stood near a lottery game carrel manually filling out the numbers for their tickets, hoping the personal touch would bring luck.

The number of lottery players is only expected to increase as Wednesday's drawing approaches.

"People are buying more lottery tickets than gas," said Mike Patel, who is unrelated to Nick Patel and the owner of the Pit Stop just up the road from Smart Mart. "It's been pretty good for everybody, especially in Georgia, because Alabama doesn't have a lottery."

According to a report from AL.com, Alabama state Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, is planning to sponsor a lottery bill in the upcoming legislative session.

His proposal is expected to be announced at a Tuesday news conference.

For now, storekeepers along the border are enjoying the extra customers the monumental jackpots have brought.

"It has never been crazy like this," Mike Patel said. "I have never seen this many cars in the parking lot."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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