The National Geographic magazine has offered a soft apology to the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna for referring to it as "redneck" in its July issue.

The reference, in an article about Atlanta, came in the sentence "No matter where I went - from redneck Smyrna in the northwest to downtown's black Atlanta University to the old-money bastions of Ansley Park - Atlantans described their town indulgently as adolescent."Magazine spokesman Barbara Moffitt said the magazine had received more than 50 letters, most of them from angry Smyrna residents.

Smyrna resident Linda Farmer's letter in the November issue accused author Erla Zwingle of "uninhibited myopic vision" and said her neck may not be red "but your collective face should be."

"It is," was the editorial reply.

Associate editor Bart McDowell acknowledged that some, but not all, people take offense at the use of the word and that while the magazine might use it again it would think twice about using it on a person or place.