An emotional Gov. Jon S. Cor-zine was discharged from the hospital yesterday and asked forgiveness for his conduct in a crash 18 days earlier in which he was critically injured.

A teary-eyed Corzine, who was not wearing a seat belt while a passenger in a speeding sport-utility vehicle being driven by a state trooper, apologized for setting a bad example, especially for young people.

"I certainly hope the state will forgive me, and I'll work very hard to set the right kind of example," Corzine said from his wheelchair outside Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

Corzine had a broken left leg and fractures to 11 ribs, his breastbone and other bones. During one of three operations, a metal rod was inserted in his leg to stabilize it. Medical personnel said Corzine likely will not be able to walk without crutches or a cane for at least six months.

"I could not be more grateful for the support I've had, all the people of the state," Corzine said as he was greeted with cheers outside the hospital.

"Nothing counts more in life than those people who care about you all the time, in the moments of joy and the moments of pain."

Two of Corzine's children, Jennifer Pasani and Jeffrey Corzine stood behind and occasionally rubbed his shoulders as he spoke.

His girlfriend, Sharon Elghanayan, was also with him as he left the hospital.

The multimillionaire governor, who is personally paying for his medical treatment and recovery, plans to continue his rehabilitation at Drumthwacket - the governor's two-story mansion in Princeton - instead of at his apartment in Hoboken.

He left Cooper in a six-car caravan that included a black state police Crown Victoria, a Chevrolet Suburban like the one he had been riding in on April 12, a Mercedes station wagon and two other cars.

Said the Times: "They kept to a pace of about 70 miles per hour, even though the posted limit is 55 on the stretch of Interstate 295 that leads to Drum-thwacket." *