DALLAS (AP) _ A car dealer relented Wednesday and awarded $10,000 to a woman whose contest-entry key mistakenly opened a grand prize safe.

George Grubbs Jr., whose Lincoln-Mercury dealership sponsored the contest, called Beatrice Taylor with the news Wednesday afternoon.

''He just said that he wanted me to come out to the dealership. He said he wanted to make me happy,'' said Mrs. Taylor, 72.

The DeSoto woman said she drove to the dealership after Grubbs' call and collected her $10,000 check.

''I never thought I would have to go through this to win $10,000 in a contest,'' said Mrs. Taylor, who had complained since she was denied the money Saturday after her key opened the safe but a computer showed her key shouldn't have.

Grubbs said that after the story was reported Wednesday, the dealership received calls all day from people who had read about the dispute. Grubbs said he discussed the problem with the dealership manager, the locksmith and Tony TaCito, whose company ran the contest.

He said it was decided that TaCito would pay the $10,000 to Mrs. Taylor.

''I determined that in my opinion, Mr. TaCito should pay her the $10,000 as a goodwill gesture,'' Grubbs said.

Mrs. Taylor had received the key in an advertisement mailed to her home.

''I've never won anything like that before,'' Mrs. Taylor said. ''Once I won a $25 gift certificate from (a grocery store), but I've never been to one of these key-opening things.''

But she decided to give it a try. A salesman asked for the key and, as she watched, he stuck it in the lock of the grand prize safe.

It opened.

''I was speechless. I was in shock. I think he was, too. He just looked so surprised,'' Mrs. Taylor said.

Within minutes, however, employees of the dealership and the company running the promotion told her there had been a mistake. Her key was not supposed to open the lock.

''All I said was, 'Well, it did,''' recalled Mrs. Taylor.

Charles Morris, the locksmith who keyed the safe's locks for the promotion, said, ''Her key was definitely not the key that was supposed to be the winning key.''

According to the contest rules, the winner was predetermined, and the person whose key opened the lock had to be the same person whose name had been pre-selected, TaCito said.

As a consolation prize, the dealership offered a $500 discount coupon toward the purchase of a new car - the same coupon it was handing out to everyone who responded to the promotion.

TaCito also offered to give her a videocassette recorder or a TV - the contest's second prize.

Mrs. Taylor refused both offers, and had said she was considering legal action.