BOSTON – An off-the-cuff joke by Gov. Deval Patrick about seeking a third term in office sparked off a brief firestorm online before it was quickly extinguished.

Patrick made the comment Wednesday at a performance management conference at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. It came after a flattering introduction that Patrick joked would make it easier to announce his run for a third term.

Some observers took the remark literally, and within minutes Patrick’s fake announcement was racing around the Internet. But the governor’s office quickly clarified the comment was a joke.

Patrick is midway through his second term and has repeatedly said he’s not interested in another four-year term.

Possible candidates from both political parties are already laying the foundation for gubernatorial campaigns next year.

Patrick’s term ends in January 2015.