NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Kroger Co. workers in three states returned to work Wednesday after a one- day strike by 5,800 clerks.

''A memorandum of agreement was signed and ratified by the negotiating committee and has the support of the union leadership,'' said Richard Tillman, director of merchandising for the 68 stores in the Cincinnati-based grocery chain's Nashville division.

Tillman said the agreement was reached Wednesday morning after 24 hours of negotiations.

Eddie Collins, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1557, said workers were volunteering to return to their jobs in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky before they ratify the agreement.

The new contract calls for higher entry level pay, a new pay raise schedule and improved retirement benefits, Tillman said.

The contract makes Sunday a regular work day for new hires, while still paying overtime for current employees who work Sunday. The union also agreed on wage cuts up to 63 cents an hour in 11 stores.