Illinois Sen. Paul Simon Thursday suspended his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying he will decide later what to do with his delegates.

In becoming the first inactive candidate in the 1988 campaign, Simon said, "I have no illusions the nomination will come my way" and compared running for president to taking an ice-cold shower: "It is a great one-time experience, but I have no yearning for a repeat performance."Wearing his trademark bow tie and accompanied by his wife Jeanne, whom he praised as "a superb campaigner," Simon was warmly received by supporters who packed into a small congressional hearing room.

He also was accompanied by his son Martin and daughter Sheila and her husband Perry Knop, who, he said, were married last September and spent their honeymoon on the campaign trail.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk, at a separate news conference, called Simon "an outstanding candidate."

Simon believes in an active role for government he backs a huge jobs training program, for example and said Americans want leadership from the federal government.

"Government is not the enemy," he said. "Government is simply a tool that can be used wisely or unwisely."

After the last Democratic primaries June 7, Simon will meet with his delegates "to determine what course should be followed."

"I want my delegates to have a voice in this nation's future," Simon said. "We will weigh the options then. I want to be in a position to do everything I can to help unify the party and, ultimately, the nation."

Democrats probably will nominate one of the three remaining active candidates, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson or Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore, he said.

Simon said he will return to being a full-time senator. He arrived on Capitol Hill early Thursday to find on his office door a sign shaped like Illinois and saying, "Welcome back, Paul. We're proud of you!"

Although he won only his home-state primary, Simon has picked up 169.5 committed and projected delegate votes, according to the United Press International tally. By remaining a candidate, he will keep them. If he had withdrawn now, 47 at-large Illinois delegates would have gone to Jackson.

Suspending the campaign will save money for Simon, who has been forced to run a "pay as you go" campaign. He went more than one month without putting any TV ads on the air. An aide on Wednesday estimated Simon owes about $500,000 to suppliers but he is in line for more federal matching funds and has retired all his bank loans.