Ray Lewis says ... when you're rocking a $250k wardrobe, you're LESS LIKELY to kill someone ... and that's kind of the new defense he's using to explain why he didn't murder anybody during an incident back in 2000.
Lewis opened up about the violent incident in Atlanta in 2000 ... in which 2 people were stabbed to death during an altercation involving Lewis' entourage.
Ray has always denied having any hand in the killings, but ultimately pled guilty to obstruction of justice.
In his new book, "I Feel Like Going On" ... Ray addresses the long standing rumors that he was directly responsible for killing the two men.
"Remember, I was dressed out, had my jewelry on, my fine mink coat. I wasn't about to start mixing it up looking like that. That's the general rule of thumb when you're doing the town and looking good. The nicer you're dressed, the less inclined you are to get in a fight -- that is, if you're even inclined in that way to begin with."
Ray says he was leaving a party that night with his entourage, when some "gangbangers" rolled up on his crew and hit one of Ray's friends in the head with a champagne bottle.
"But I didn't engage with these dudes," Lewis says ... "No, sir. I tried to disengage."
At one point, shots were fired ... one bullet struck the limo's tire.
"There I was, all dressed out in my mink coat, my fine suit. Dude dresses like that, he's not looking for a fight. How I was dressed, it made no sense with what went down, those shots being fired, all of that. Forget what kind of statement my clothes might have made. Forget that I might have been a little loud, over the top. Point is, when you're dressed like that, you're off to the sidelines, and here were these gangbangers stepping out to us from the shadows, looking to make trouble -- but it was trouble we drove right past."
Lewis says he didn't know that anyone had been stabbed in the altercation until he got home and turned on the TV and saw cops were looking for his limo.
Ray eventually settled with the victims' families in civil court -- though Ray says the settlement is NOT an admission of guilt.
"I gave because I had it to give. I knew that money would never bring back what the families wanted most. But they asked for it so I gave."