Jon Bon Jovi wanted to take it back almost as soon as it happened.

Caught up in the intensity of Monday's game against Georgia, the Soul owner was captured by ESPN2 cameras signaling an obscene gesture after an unusual play that went against Philadelphia. The Soul suffered its first loss of the season, 57-49.

Bon Jovi, who usually avoids the postgame news conferences, made an apology outside the Soul's locker room. It appears to be enough of a gesture to avoid further sanctions from the league.

"Jon Bon Jovi is a great AFL owner, who is passionate and competitive. He has demonstrated time and time again how deeply he cares about the Mission Statement and Fans' Bill of Rights," Chris McCloskey, the Arena Football League's vice president of communications, said in a statement.

"He has already apologized and expressed profound regret to the commissioner [David Baker], ESPN and the Soul fans. The AFL will review this matter over the next few days to determine if discipline is warranted. With as much access as the AFL provides its television partners, events such as this are unavoidable although certainly not condoned."

Just before he was to cross the goal line, Georgia wide receiver Troy Bergeron fumbled the ball through the end zone. Traditional football dictates that the play be ruled a touchback, which would have nullified the score and given Philadelphia possession. But AFL rules allow the offensive player who has fumbled the ball to recover it in the end zone, even when the ball hits the back wall.

There was also an initial question whether Bergeron had possession. Replays showed he did. The AFL does not have instant replay.

"He did have possession, he did recover the ball," Bon Jovi said Monday night. "I reacted to something I didn't know the ruling of. The Georgia Force are a class act. I apologize for the middle-finger thing. I didn't understand the rule. Simple as that."

The Soul (4-1) play another important game this week, visiting division-leading Dallas (6-0) on Monday night. Bon Jovi, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, will not be on hand for that game, however. He said Monday night he had a previous engagement involving a country music awards show. *