STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Richard Nixon stopped at a Burger King restaurant here while taking a drive along the coast, and posed for pictures and signed autographs for the stunned workers and patrons, employees and his spokesman say.

''There was an ex-president in Burger King,'' said hosteen Doreen Johnson.

''It was a shock to see him,'' she added. ''He wore a powder blue suit, and looks better in person than he does on TV.''

John Taylor, a spokesman for Nixon, said today, ''It was a pretty day and he thought he would take a drive down the coast and have a hamburger and french fries.''

Nixon, 73, accompanied during his jaunt Wednesday by staff member Mike Edicott, ordered a burger, fries and soft drink, said Ms. Johnson.

After bringing the former president his lunch, she held hands with Nixon and posed for a picture.

The Saddle River resident stayed for about an hour and signed autographs. Before departing, he left a special message for the restaurant - a note which reads, ''Best Wishes to Burger King, home of the Whopper. Love, Richard Nixon.''

The workers have already had the note framed, said manager Lisa Krigel.