September 05, 2002 11:00 AM

Looking “remarkably strong” despite a scruffy beard that makes him appear “haggard” and “tired,” Jason Priestley on Wednesday granted an interview to the Indianapolis Star, said to be his first since his 180-mph race car crash into a wall at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 11.

The former “Beverly Hills, 90210” actor, 33, wearing a chest brace to restrict movement of his back (which has a pin in it), remains in an undisclosed Indianapolis rehab center after breaking both feet and the middle part of his back and suffering several fractures in and around his face, says the paper.

Priestley remembers nothing about the crash — “I know it was a big one, and there were some bad things that happened,” he says, adding that he also doesn’t know whether or not he will continue racing.

“I want to get healthy and see how my feet work before I decide,” he tells the Star’s Curt Cavin, who reports that the surgical procedures on Priestley’s eye socket and on the bridge of his nose are not noticeable because of the small incisions made by doctors.

“Rehab is way too hard,” says Priestley, “but you don’t mind the work so much when you know it’s going to pay you back tenfold.”

Priestley’s girlfriend, Naomi Lowde, says that the actor (who’s been racing for 11 years) has no long-term memory loss and is working with therapists to improve his speech after surgeons repaired a fractured right eardrum.

“He’s a medical miracle,” Lowde declares. “He could have died from any one of his injuries.”

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