JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Novelist William Faulkner, who once was fired as a small-town postmaster because of his bad work habits, will be honored with a commemorative issue, the U.S. Postal Service says.

Fifty million 22-cent portraits of the late Nobel Prize-winning author will be distrbuted. The issue, one of 20 commemorative stamps to be released this year, follows several years of lobbying by the University of Mississippi and Oxford residents.

The stamp will be issued in a ceremony in Oxford on Sept. 25, on what would have been Faulkner's 90th birthday, said Harold Fortner, director of marketing and communications for the postal service division in Memphis, Tenn. Faulkner died in 1962.

Faulkner, famous for complex, rambling novels such as ''The Sound and the Fury,'' ''As I Lay Dying'' and ''Sanctuary,'' also worked as a blue-collar man of letters.

Pressed for money in the 1921, Faulkner applied for a fourth-class postmaster's job. He served at the $1,500-a-year post at the University of Mississippi mail drop from 1922 until he was fired for lackadaisical behavior in 1924, officials said.

''He used to sit on the mail sacks and read magazines,'' said university spokesman Ed Meek. ''He used to put people's mail in a garbage can out front.''

Faulkner once said he was fired from the job because he refused ''to be at the beck and call of every S.O.B. who wants to buy a two-cent stamp.''

After leaving the post office, Faulkner shoveled coal for a local power plant and wrote novels in his spare time. He later supported his family by writing screenplays before the popularity of his novels increased.

He never regretted leaving the postal service, he told friends. He even inscribed a copy of his first book, ''The Marble Faun,'' to the postal inspector who fired him, thanking him ''for extracting me from an unpleasant situation.''

''It's poetic justice,'' said Oxford author Willie Morris.

Local postmaster James Hammons said he is proud of Faulkner and of his honor, despite his checkered postal past.

''I think that he probably had his mind on other things,'' Hammons said. ''I think he ended up in the right profession.''

Dean Faulkner Wells, a niece of the author and co-owner of Oxford's Yoknapatawpha Press, said she wants to be first in line for a stamp.

''It's just terrific, and I think he (Faulkner) would be just tickled at the irony of it all,'' she said.