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'Hollywood' Henderson wins $28 million in Texas lottery

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Posted: Friday March 24, 2000 07:04 PM


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, who wrecked his NFL career with his drug use and bottomed out in prison, has had a colossal change of fortune. He hit a $28 million lottery jackpot.

"I'm the winner," Henderson said from his Austin home Friday after the ticket received preliminary validation from the Texas lottery. "I always knew I was going to win it."

The former Dallas Cowboys linebacker said he is financially secure and plays the lottery just for fun when the jackpot reaches more than $20 million. He spent $100 Wednesday, allowing the computer to pick the lucky numbers.

"I am just going to continue to do the charities that I do, take care of my children and buy my momma a Town Car," he said.

The 47-year-old Henderson said he celebrated the big win in bed with powdered doughnuts, sausage and biscuits and a glass of milk. Had it been 15 years ago, he said, "it would have been laced with some cocaine and alcohol and the whole insanity."

Henderson played for Dallas from 1975 until the Cowboys cut him in 1979 because of his drug problems. He moved to Southern California to pursue acting, but as he said years later, his "starring role as a crack addict would not allow me to audition for other parts."

In 1983, he was arrested for smoking crack with two teen-age girls. Police said he threatened the girls with a gun, sexually assaulted one of them and held them against their will. Henderson served two years and four months in prison.

Since then, he has spent most of his time giving motivational speeches and doing community service in Austin, where he grew up.

In 1997, he fasted to raise money for a track and field in a poor neighborhood. This year, he said he wanted to run for Austin's City Council, but he was barred because of his felony conviction.

He said hitting the jackpot is even more special because he is sober.

"The thing is, I have always known how to be successful. It's just that I didn't know how to handle it," he said. "Today, I know how to handle success and that's what's important."

Former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, a contemporary of Henderson's, said he deserves the win.

"He's really come full circle. He had it all when he was playing for the Cowboys; that's when he became Hollywood. Then he got into trouble and got mixed up with the drugs and lost it all. He hit rock bottom," Pearson said.

"This winning is like a sign. Things happen for a reason. I think this happened to Thomas because the good Lord knows he's going to do the right thing with this money," he said.

Henderson said he bought the winning ticket in Wednesday night's Texas drawing at Nau's Drug, a family-owned pharmacy where he is a regular customer. He said he has spent about $20,000 on the lottery in 10 years.

"He's a real nice guy," said Jim Cox, a cashier at Nau's, which stands to get about $280,000 for selling the winning ticket. "He does a lot for the kids in the community. I know he'll do a lot more for the kids now."

Henderson chose to take a lump sum of about $14 million instead of 25 annual installments. After federal taxes, he will get about $10 million.

Lottery spokesman Keith Elkins said Henderson's ticket will not be declared an official winner until it is brought into the Austin headquarters for further testing.

Related information
"Hollywood" Henderson shares his reaction on winning the lottery. (195 K)
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