DWAYNE 'THE ROCK' JOHNSON has defended Hulk Hogan after he was sacked by the WWE for making racist comments.

The 'San Andreas' actor and fellow wrestling champion was ''pretty disappointed'' when he first heard that the 61-year-old wrestler - whose real name is Terry Bollea - had been dropped for using the 'N-word', in a 2007 sex tape as he speculated about his daughter sleeping with a black man, but he now thinks he has ''paid the price''.

Speaking at a Television Critics Association panel at the Beverly Hilton hotel he said: ''I've known Terry for years. My dad helped train him in Florida in the 1970s, and even my uncle. I didn't know him to be a racist. Not justifying what he said but we've all talked trash, especially in private, and he's paid the price.''

Hulk has since made an apology for using ''offensive language'' and said ''This is not who I am''.

In an audio statement on PEOPLE magazine he said: ''Eight years ago I used offensive language during a conversation. It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologise for having done it.''

He then said he was ''disappointed'' in himself for using language ''inconsistent'' with his ''own beliefs''.

He added: ''This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise. I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.''