Ray Rice has finally returned to the bar scene — partying at a NYC nightclub for the first time since he attacked his wife at an Atlantic City casino back in February … and TMZ Sports has the pics.

Rice hit up Bounce Sporting Club in Manhattan late Saturday night/early Sunday morning — where he posed for pics with fans and chatted with anyone who approached him.

TMZ report security was trying to keep fans away from Rice — but Ray was talking and making conversation with people anyway.

The timing is interesting … considering Ray won his appeal on Friday — and then hit the club right after. It feels like a celebration.

One source said Janay was with Ray at the club — though we can’t confirm that yet.

Ray was apparently NOT drinking at Bounce.

As we previously reported, Ray claimed he was highly intoxicated when he struck Janay in Atlantic City — and says ever since that incident, he’s cut hard liquor out of his life.