An ill-timed, ill-outfitted jog--in 100-degree heat, in heavy clothing--is being blamed for bringing comic actor Martin Lawrence to the brink of death.

The oft-troubled star remains in critical condition in a Los Angeles-area hospital, battling back from extreme heat exhaustion and dehydration that put him into a three-day coma. This morning, his prognosis was said to be "very encouraging."

"He woke up, he was alert, he was following commands," said Kris Carraway-Bowman, spokeswoman for Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California. "His eyes were focusing, so that was very encouraging."

Drugs were not involved in Lawrence's collapse, stress officials at Los Robles. They say it was simply a matter of the comic pushing himself to jog in triple-digit heat in order to shed pounds for an upcoming movie, Fox's Big Momma's House, scheduled to begin shooting in October.

"He was doing what he saw fighters do," Carraway-Bowman told reporters. "He put on several layers of heavy clothing..."

Not a good move, as it turned out. Lawrence, 34, was near death and running a body temperature of a seemingly impossible 107 degrees when he was admitted to Los Robles on Sunday. Said one nursing official of Lawrence's temperature: "...That's not very compatible with life. He's a very lucky man."

Lawrence emerged from the coma on Tuesday. His breathing is being assisted by a respirator. On the plus side, a brain scan showed no permanent damage and kidney dialysis will not be needed as first feared.

The stricken actor, who starred in the long-running Fox sitcom, Martin, was discovered by his girlfriend on the doorstep of his home, moaning and struggling for breath. She immediately called 911.

The actor's camp has not yet issued a statement.

Lawrence was most recently featured in last spring's buddy-comedy hit Life, with Eddie Murphy. His latest film, Blue Streak, is scheduled to open September 17.

Other big-screen credits include Bad Boys (1995) and the signature concert film, You So Crazy (1994).

The comic is almost as well known for his offscreen antics as his onscreen ones. In the last three years, he has been arrested for his role in a nightclub brawl, busted for allegedly trying to board a plane with a concealed weapon and accused by Martin costar Tisha Campbell of sexual harassment. Perhaps most infamously, Lawrence was picked up by police in May 1996 for standing in the middle of a busy, midday Los Angeles intersection and waving a gun. The comic blamed the incident on exhaustion and dehydration.

In 1994, Lawrence earned himself a so-called lifetime ban from NBC's Saturday Night Live for unleashing a pre-Lewinsky monologue on oral sex. (Back when such stuff was shocking.)

(ORIGINALLY POSTED at 2:15 p.m. on 8/25/99)

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