Don’t mess with Gene Hackman!

At 71, the gruff movie tough guy can still give as good as he gets — and he proved it October 29 when a young punk got in his face following a minor traffic accident.

The two-fisted ex-Marine punched out a man half his age who eyewitnesses say provoked a fight with the “French Connection” star when they met on a traffic median to exchange insurance information.

Eyewitness Ulisess Acosta, a 42-year-old parking attendant working near the scene of the fender bender, told The ENQUIRER:

“Mr. Hackman wasn’t doing anything except listening to this guy, who kept raising his voice, pointing at Mr. Hackman’s chest and getting in his face.

“He was making threatening motions at the actor when suddenly, he said something and appeared to push Mr. Hackman.

“At that point, Mr. Hackman seemed to have taken all he could — and he hauled off and punched the other fellow right in the face!”

Dick Guttman, the Oscar winner’s spokesman, said the fight began after the other driver began shoving Hackman — and then hurled a derogatory term for homosexual.

After belting the loudmouth in the face, the actor “got in two or three more quick shots as another person in the car got out and ran to the aid of his pal,” disclosed Acosta.

“They wrestled Mr. Hackman to the ground and he was kicked in the groin.”

A West Hollywood Sheriff’s Dept. cruiser arrived at the scene, but both parties involved declined to press charges.

No police report was filed and the combatants left the scene after finally exchanging insurance information.

Eyewitness Michelle Wioskiowski, who works at a nearby restaurant, told The ENQUIRER: “For an old guy, he sure has a good punch. The other driver, the younger guy, was standing there wiping blood coming down the side of his face.”

Concluded Guttman: “Gene can take care of himself. Although he’s a very gentle guy, anyone can be provoked.”