An emotional Gov. Jon S. Corzine was discharged from a hospital Monday and begged forgiveness for not wearing a seat belt during a crash 18 days earlier in which he sustained critical injuries.

"I understand that I set a very poor example for a lot of young people, a lot of people in general," a teary-eyed Corzine said.

"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 the hospital.

He was headed to the governor's mansion in Princeton, where he will continue his rehabilitation.

Senate President Richard J. Codey is acting governor until Corzine can resume his duties.

The 60-year-old governor's SUV was being driven by a state trooper at 91 mph when it was clipped by a truck and slammed into a guard rail on the Garden State Parkway. Corzine wasn't wearing his seat belt, in violation of state law.

Corzine fractured his left thigh and broke 11 ribs, his breastbone and other bones. He was operated on three times and a metal rod was inserted to stabilize his leg.

Doctors said the Democrat 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 Monday. "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."