Crowds of unhappy Washington Redskins season ticket holders waited for as long as 3 1/2 hours yesterday at RFK Stadium ticket windows to return tickets for Sunday's Redskins-St. Louis Cardinals game between nonunion football players.

Redskins officials said they had not yet determined how many people turned in tickets. But from the moment the three windows opened at 8 a.m. yesterday, lines were long, with as many as 500 people waiting to get a voucher that will entitle them to a refund at the end of the season. At 7:30 last night, there still was a 30-minute wait before the windows were scheduled to close at 8 p.m.

Former Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell was among those in line. Asked how long he had waited, he laughed and said, "too long."

The Redskins announced Tuesday that fans seeking refunds could return their tickets to the stadium box office yesterday and today, when they will be open again from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Returned tickets will be offered for public sale from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; the Redskins have sold out 159 straight games since 1966.

Many fans were angry about the long lines, and some got even angrier when they discovered their illegally parked cars in front of the stadium had been ticketed by Metropolitan Police. They were particularly upset about a policy that required them to show up at the stadium and said they hoped that will change if the NFL players strike affects future home games.

John Kent Cooke, Redskins executive vice president, said he regretted the long lines and the waiting.

"The stadium people came in to help us," he said. "The problem is, we've been sold out for 21 years, and we're not on a computer. All of {the counting and refunds} had to be done the old-fashioned box office way -- manually. I think it's remarkable we were able to do as much as we could under these circumstances."

Many fans felt the refunds should have been handled by mail. Several fans from New York, southern Virginia, western Maryland and North Carolina called The Washington Post complaining that they could hardly be expected to pay for transportation to the stadium to get vouchers for refunds.

"I was in Cleveland on union business and they have a mail-in system," said Ted Parrish, a Metro Transit employe who stood in line two hours. "Why can't they do it here? I would have no problem getting a certified letter. The Redskins are just trying to discourage people from turning their tickets in. It doesn't bother me to stand here, I've finished my shift at Metro. But this is ridiculous if we have to stand here and do this each week."

Said Cooke: "I think the world of the post office, but that is asking too much of them."

Richard Casey, a transportation consultant in Fairfax, gave up after moving about 10 feet in about 45 minutes. "It seemed to me it was obviously a slowdown method," he said. "I had an hour for lunch and, after 45 minutes, I left. I guess I'm stuck and will have to eat the $40. Because of this, I think I side with the players now. Clearly, the Redskins are not taking care of their fans."

"We are getting dumped on," said Tom Dutton of Riverdale. "I guess I just got in the wrong line. I got in line at 12:30 and got my refund at 3:45. They are getting interest on our money and we have to stand in line just to get a voucher. I will not do this again. I'm going to send any remaining tickets by certified mail to them. I wish whatever problems they {NFL union and the owners} have, they would solve."

Elsewhere around the league, the Seattle Seahawks began the week trying to sell tickets at reduced prices. Yesterday, they were told by the league to stop the practice.

The New York Giants reported more than 16,000 tickets have been returned. Seattle reported 15,000 tickets had been returned and Minnesota reported about 8,000 returned, with requests "still coming in heavy," according to a spokesman. Staff writer Christine Brennan contributed to this report.