Former Nebraska Congressman John Y. McCollister has resigned as head of the congressional relations office of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., at least partially because of the way the company handled the "500" steel-belted tire recall.

McCollister has told friends that he was extremely upset with the company's handling of the recall. It was generally known that the company had kept the Washington office virtually in the dark throughout the long negotiations with the Department of Trasnportation over the recall.

Reached yesterday, McCollister confirmed that it was his last day, but called the 500 problem "incidental" to his departure. "We're going to go home to Nebraska," he said, "where everything we love is."

McCollister called the "500" recall -- which covers some 11-13 million tires and could cost the company anwhere from $100 million to $234 million -- a "tragedy."

"I believe they should have handled it differently," McCollister said of his former employers. "It wasn't so much a tire failure as it was a public relations failure."

Nevertheless, McCollister said he was "grateful" for the experience he gained from his position at Firestone.

"I learned a lot about the way not to do things," he said.