LEWISTON, Maine (AP) _ As surely as Halley's comet nears Earth every 76 years, millions of copies of the Farmers' Almanac come off the presses every September and editor Ray Geiger goes on a whirlwind tour to promote it.

Visiting hundreds of newspapers and broadcast outlets as well as the businesses that distribute the almanac, Geiger has peddled the 169-year-old publication and the wholesomeness it espouses for more than three decades.

But Geiger, who turns 75 Wednesday, won't be making the tour this year. His doctor wants to make sure he doesn't follow the example of Mark Twain, who was born in a Halley's comet year and, as the author predicted, died when it returned in 1910.

''I had a skirmish with death, but I don't intend to go out with it,'' says Geiger, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered April 1. ''I intend to be around another 15 years.''

His son and associate editor, Peter, 34, who has helped promote the almanac for 12 years, will handle the promotion this fall.

''It's hard being grounded,'' he said last week in an interview at Geiger Bros., his advertising-products company in Lewiston.

The elder Geiger has been selling since age 6, when he peddled bread to neighbors. Editor of the Farmers' Almanac since 1934, he began hitting the road to sell it in the late 1940s and has since, by his own account, given 18,000 newspaper, radio and television interviews. He is, he says, ''the most interviewed man in America.''

Geiger conceded that his salesman's patter, laced with corny one-liners and occasional kernels of wisdom, does not come as easily as it used to. ''My words used to flow a little faster,'' he said.

But Peter noted that his father's memory remains sharp. For example, he complained that the Farmers' Almanac's rival, the New Hampshire-based Old Farmers Almanac, recently recycled a tidbit from its 1833 edition.

Geiger's almanac is sold to banks, insurance companies and other businesses, which distribute it free to their customers. The Old Farmers Almanac is sold directly to readers.

The publication has long published articles and inspirational messages that reflect traditional values, along with its famous long-range weather predictions, ''philosofacts,'' and corny quips.

The new edition forecasts a fairly mild winter across most of the nation. ''We expect the jet stream to return to normal and those hard-hit areas such as the Rockies and the Midwest will get some welcome relief.''

Each year the almanac tackles a special theme. Earlier campaigns have included one against the nine-digit ZIP code and another in favor of multi- colored currency.

''We try to have issues that keep life simple for people,'' said Peter Geiger. ''They're not the kind of things that people will protest about.''

The almanac's special theme last was hugging and ''you'd be surprised the mail it generated,'' said Peter Geiger.

As the 1986 almanac puts it: ''It was a big year on the hugging front ... In the year ahead we are not giving up on the hug campaign, because a 12- month crusade just isn't enough time to devote to a great big national and even international Hugfest.''

''We're embracing the nation,'' said the elder Geiger, who advocates ''12 hugs a day for everyone and maybe a national hugging holiday, which is already being stirred up by people in Florida and Pittsburgh.''

''Understand this is therapeutic hugging,'' he added. ''Never would the Farmers' Almanac lead to sin.''

''Nothing in it's offensive to anyone,'' he said, describing the almanac as ''not religious, but moral.''