RALEIGH – Rodger Keith Melton, a retired security guard, went out to buy two lottery tickets Saturday night, fell asleep and woke up Sunday morning to find out he was an instant millionaire.

Melton, who lives in Spindale in Rutherford County, said he dropped by Deb’s Mini Mart on Oakland Road to buy the $5 scratch-off tickets in the $2,500 A Week For Life! game, then returned home to watch TV and ended up falling asleep. He said he’d forgotten about the tickets he’d stashed in his jeans’ pocket until he was watching television the next morning.

“I got up and scratched it off and found out it was a $2500-a-week winner,” Melton recalled Thursday at lottery headquarters in Raleigh. “I said, “’Whoopee!’ I had to look at it four or five times to be sure I had it and to make sure it was real.”

Melton is the second player to claim the $2.6 million top prize in the $2,500 A Week for Life! game. The game is part of a series of four instant games offering the chance to win as much as $5,000 a week for life. The tickets, which went on sale last August, are available for $1, $2, $5 and $10 per play.

Winners can choose from one of two options to collect their winnings. A top prize is structured in annual payments that continue for a winner’s entire life. The guaranteed value of the prize is at least 20 years of payments to a winner or his designated estate. Top prize winners can also choose to claim their winnings as a lump sum with a cash value equal to the guaranteed prize amount.

Melton, 64, chose the $1.7 million lump sum cash option, which amounted to $1,202,241 after state and federal taxes were withheld.

Melton said he plans to use the money to trade up from his 1997 Buick to a brand new Cheverolet Malibu or Impala and to remodel his home. He said he’ll also knock some things off of his bucket list, including trips to Disney World, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. He said he’ll invest the rest of his winnings.

As of Thursday afternoon, one top prize and many other prizes remain unclaimed in the $2,500 a Week for Life! Game.

Since the lottery began through June 30, 2012, Rutherford County education programs received more than $16.3 million in lottery funds. By law, those funds pay for teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction, prekindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds, and college scholarships and financial aid based on need.